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Controversial shop dispute heads back to Pembroke zoning board

PEMBROKE - After an agreement was reached in Merrimack County Superior Court Monday, the dispute in Pembroke between the town and the owner of a controversial new shop on Main Street is moving from the court to the town's zoning board.

The shop, Trevor's Toybox, raised eyebrows and ire when a racy window display went up early last month, eventually leading the selectmen to file for a temporary injunction against the store, which was originally to open April 1, according to a Facebook post.

The selectmen have argued that the shop is clearly an adult entertainment store, which zoning regulations do not allow in that area. Owner and former selectman Larry Preston has argued that while an online store will sell adult toys, the storefront will only deal in leather products.

At the hearing scheduled to review the injunction, Judge Robert McNamara and attorneys agreed that an injunction was not necessary given that Preston was found to be willing to delay the opening until his store's legality was settled by the zoning board.

Preston's attorney, James Raymond, indicated in a letter to the court that Preston and his business partner, John Duggan (also a former selectman who lost his seat in the March 12 election), had no intention of opening the shop until the issue was settled. The town's attorney, Walter Mitchell, stated that town officials were not aware of Preston's willingness to delay the opening when the injunction was filed.

Raymond's letter also said the town had overreacted to "rumors" without a full knowledge of the store's nature.

"In short, the town jumped the gun, apparently acting on rumors of an impending opening and on incorrect conclusion about the items to be sold at the store," the letter reads.

The letter went on to say that nothing in the window display could legally be considered "sexual instruments, devices or paraphernalia."

The town argues that even if the storefront only deals in leather-chaps and the like, it is the physical location of a larger enterprise that is adult oriented. Key to this argument is that when Preston filed with the secretary of state's office, the primary purpose of his business was listed as "retail - adult toys."

"They registered with the secretary of state's office (as an adult toy shop) and they gave that address, so according to the town zoning ordinance it's not allowed in that area," said Town Administrator David Jodoin previously. "Everything is pointing right back to that address. The board of selectmen are looking at it as it's physically functioning at that address."

To be heard before the zoning board, Preston has 30 days to submit an appeal against the violation he was issued in March by Pembroke's code enforcement officer, Everett Hodge, which Raymond indicated would be submitted within the week. The board could hear the case by May at the earliest.

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