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A blog that takes a look at West Chester area government, politics, and community events.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Why I wrote the sex shop article

A few readers wondered why I wrote last week about West Chester entrepreneur Jill McDevitt's unsuccessful attempt to expand her store, Feminique Boutique, into the King of Prussia Mall.

No, I didn't write the story just so I could throw around a few "naughty" words. I wrote the story because McDevitt is a controversial figure in West Chester. She has been making headlines since 2008, when she opened Feminique Boutique, a "female owned and operated upscale, shame-free, sex-positive sex shop," on North Church Street. (The quoted text is from the FB website.)

In 2008, shortly after the West Chester codes department gave McDevitt permission to open her store, the borough Planning Commission began to discuss whether the borough's zoning code should be amended to prevent another Feminique Boutique type store from opening in the downtown WC. It didn't take long for West Chester area residents to bring their opinions of the store before West Chester's planning commission. Then, the St. Agnes Catholic Church, located around the corner from Feminique Boutique, tried briefly to shut the store down. West Chester ended up changing its zoning ordinance so that another Feminique Boutique style store could not open in downtown WC. The pre-Feminique Boutique zoning ordinance only kept out porn shops, strip clubs and "massage parlors." (These types of businesses, however, were and are allowed in certain commercial districts in the borough's eastern and western sections.)

So, yes. What McDevitt does has been and, I would think, continues to be of interest.

Some readers may have noticed that the Daily Local has given McDevitt a "Blogtown" blog. Readers may also have noticed that my story recapitulates the story she told in her March 11 post.

Well, a lead is a lead.

For those interested, here's a rundown of the coverage we've given the Fem Boutique controversy:

- April 2008: Just after McDevitt got permission to open her store, the West Chester Planning Commission began to debate whether to create a zoning provision that would prevent similar stores from opening up in downtown West Chester.

- May 2008: Residents, along with the pastor of St. Agnes's, came to a planning commission meeting to protest the borough's decision to allow Feminique Boutique to open.

- June 2008: St Agnes's appealed the borough's decision to grant McDevitt permission to open her store.

- June 2008: The church dropped its appeal and decided instead to lobby borough council to change the zoning ordinance so that no other Feminique Boutique-style shops could open in West Chester.

- June 2008: The planning commission discussed whether to amend the zoning ordinance to clarify what counts as a "sexually-oriented business" and to specify where such businesses should be allowed to open.

- November 2008: The planning commission completed a draft zoning amendment that would prevent another Feminique Boutique-style shop from opening in downtown West Chester. Such businesses would be limited to the borough's industrially-zoned areas.

- February 2009: Borough council tweaked the zoning amendment the planning commission developed.

- March 2009: Borough council passed the zoning amendment, effectively giving McDevitt a monopoly. No other businesses like hers may open in downtown West Chester.

- March 2010: The King of Prussia Mall denied McDevitt a lease to open a second FB.

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