Charlottetown council rejects variance for sex shop

Colin MacLean
Published on August 28, 2014

Taboo Company adult store and smoke shop in Charlottetown, on Euston Street at the corner with Hillsborough St.

The owner of an adult novelty store in Charlottetown says she is disappointed city council denied a request to let the business operate in a residential neighbourhood.

Amy Brewster is one of the owners of Taboo Company and said there was a lot of support for the store as it sought the variance it needed to stay on Euston Street.

"I was really shocked that the variance got denied," she said.

The business opened earlier this summer in a space that has housed commercial operations for many years, but Taboo Company required a variance because the area is zoned for residential use.

Its owners didn't know that until they started the procedure needed for signage and they later ran into opposition from some area residents who didn't want the business in the neighbourhood.

The matter went to a vote Wednesday during a special meeting where city council rejected the variance request by a vote of 7-3.

Only Coun. Rob Lantz, Coun. Jason Coady and Coun. Melissa Hilton, who are the three members of the planning board, voted in favour.

After the vote, Brewster said the owners plan to appeal the decision and she thought there was some information not considered in council's decision.

"A little bit of a lack of information about how much support we do have," she said.

Donna West, who lives a few houses away from the store, was one of fewer than 10 people in the public gallery at the council meeting and brought with her a petition that included 74 names of people opposed to the business.

West was council denied the variance.

"I'm very happy and I hope the man (owner Chaylon Brewster) finds another place," she said.

There have been other businesses in the same location, including a drum shop and a small grocery store, but zoning changes meant any future businesses would need a variance.

West said it's not for her to say what should go in the space but there are options for something else in a family-oriented neighbourhood.

"Not a sex shop," she said.

Before the vote on the variance, Coun. Mitch Tweel stood and said residents wanted council to support the community on the basis of planning, not on whether it was moral or ethical.

He also said he received letters on the matter from several institutions, included churches.

Tweel called it a critical issue that will send a strong message to the community about whether or not council supports the work that has gone into the area over the years.

"It's a great fabric, great people," he said.

After the vote, Tweel said Taboo Company wasn't the right fit for the community.

"It just didn't send the right message," he said.

Brewster disagreed and said the owners planned on working with the community to clean up the area around the shop, including removing graffiti from the building.

If the store has to move that won't happen, she said.

"But we would still like to."

Lantz said he supported the variance because the planning board reviewed the application and found there was nothing that would prohibit Taboo Company from operating at the Euston Street location.

"The question will be whether the grounds for denying it are enshrined in the bylaw."

With the owners planning to appeal the decision they will be able to continue operating the store until the appeal process runs its course through the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission.

Lantz said it's an unusual situation and ideally the owners would have been warned earlier that the variance was needed.

"It's an unfortunate set of circumstances."