Simply Sensual Owner Loses Appeal, Says Case Will Go to Court

By Rick Smith, Reporter

Simply Sensual owner Patricia Edmonds at her Wiley Plaza location on Wednesday, January 9, 2012. (Kyle Grillot/The Gazette-KCRG)

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By Jay Knoll

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - The Simply Sensual lingerie and gift shop in a west-side strip mall has 30 days to remove its adult material including books, videos, sex toys and other adult items following a Monday afternoon ruling by the city’s Board of Adjustment.

The Board of Adjustment voted 5-0 to deny shop owner Patricia Edmonds’ appeal of a decision by the city’s zoning officials, who had concluded that Edmonds’ business was an adult entertainment establishment more than a lingerie shop and that it was operating illegally in a commercial district too close to a church, day care and residential area.

After Monday’s hearing, Edmonds said she will appeal the board’s decision to court.

"It’s a violation of my rights," she said.

Edmonds argued to the Board of Adjustment, as she has done to city officials, that the city’s adult entertainment ordinance is too vague and subjective. As a result, the ordinance is unfair to her when it says that a business is an adult entertainment establishment if a "significant and substantial" portion of its business involves adult items. She said the standard does not provide any objective standard to measure how much of her business can be adult in nature.

Edmonds has operated her shop since July at 2129 Wiley Blvd. SW in a strip mall next to a Laundromat and a Mexican grocery store.

However, the Rev. Jay Eberly, minister of the Spirit of Faith Family Church, informed the Board of Adjustment that his church’s property line sits 23 feet from Edmonds’ store where his church also runs a day care operation. He noted that the city’s zoning ordinance requires an adult entertainment establishment to be 450 feet from a church or day care if the adult entertainment establishment is in a zoning area where such establishments are permitted. Edmonds’ shop is not in such a zoning area.

Eberly, who presented a petition to the Board of Adjustment with some 100 signatures from people who object to the location of Edmonds’ business, said Edmonds’ shop is the kind of place that could attract child molesters.

Raymond Nees, the city’s assistant manager for building services, told the Board of Adjustment that a "significant and substantial" portion of Edmonds’ business involves adult entertainment items because removing the adult items from her inventory would be "detrimental" to the shop.

The five-member Board of Adjustment — all five are men — did not comment in voting to agree with Nees and to deny Edmonds’ appeal.

Last week, Edmonds, 47, said, "I’m just trying to run a nice, clean lingerie store." She said many of her customers are women over 40 years of age who want to buy lingerie from someone their age rather than from a teenager working in a mall retail shop.

She has set up her shop so the adult material is at the back of the store behind a wall and not readily visible. On Monday, she told the Board of Adjustment that a video store in the city has a similar setup with adult videos set off from the rest of its merchandise. She has said a store at Lindale Mall sells the same sort of sex toys that she sells in her business.

The city’s Nees said calling a business a lingerie shop doesn’t mean it isn’t being operated as an adult entertainment establishment.

Boats, he said, are allowed by the river in the city, mobile homes aren’t. You can’t put a mobile home by the river and call it a boat, Nees said.

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