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'Sex store' wins battle with Pittsylvania County

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Posted: Friday, July 26, 2013 3:23 pm | Updated: 5:57 pm, Fri Jul 26, 2013.

A store that sells sex toys in Mount Hermon and was ordered to close by Pittsylvania County officials will now be allowed to remain open.

Lawrence Walters, the Florida attorney for Trish Post, owner of Shhh … Intimacy on a New Level on Franklin Turnpike, said the county’s zoning administrator/director of code compliance has rescinded his order that the store be closed due to a zoning violation.

“I am rescinding my decision regarding your client’s retail sales establishment as directed by the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors,” said Zoning Administrator Odie Shelton, in a letter he wrote to Walters on Thursday. “Your client’s retail sale establishment will be legally grandfathered and allowed to continue its operation.”

Shelton declined to comment Friday afternoon. Attempts to reach County Administrator Dan Sleeper and County Attorney J. Vaden Hunt were unsuccessful.

When reached Friday, Post expressed joy at her legal victory.

“I am beyond thrilled and I can’t wait to just get back to business,” Post said.

“We view this as a victory both for our clients, and for First Amendment rights in general,” Walters said via email Friday. “Erotic materials are constitutionally protected, and adult customers in the county should be able to enjoy them without governmental interference if they so choose.”

Walters commended county officials “for their professionalism and courtesy in getting this matter resolved expeditiously, without expensive legal proceedings.”

Shelton said in the letter that the county is working on a zoning ordinance amendment to bring the county in compliance with constitutional laws regulating adult stores. Future adult stores would need to comply with zoning amendments approved by the board of supervisors, Shelton wrote.

Shelton ordered Post’s store closed this past spring because adult stores are not permitted businesses in the county. But Walters said localities are constitutionally prohibited from banning adult stores but are allowed to restrict them to certain areas.

Post appealed her case, which was scheduled for a public hearing before the Pittsylvania County Board of Zoning Appeals on Sept. 10.

Shelton wrote that if Post notifies him in writing that she wishes to withdraw her appeal, he would refund her appeal fee and remove the public hearing from the board’s agenda.

Post said she plans to withdraw her appeal.

Shhh ... sold pornographic DVDs but stopped offering them before receiving Shelton’s order. Post said Friday she may sell them again.

“I’m thinking about doing it but I want to do it on a discrete level,” Post said.

Post expressed appreciation to her supporters during her disagreement with the county.

“I want to thank everybody for their support,” Post said. “It’s been amazing.”

If it weren’t for citizens’ support, Post said she probably would’ve backed down.

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