The battle between the city of Missouri City and a women’s lingerie store rages on.
Missouri City’s zoning board of adjustment and appeals last week unanimously rejected Cindie’s request to reverse the city’s earlier decision, which rejected the company’s certificate of occupancy. The latest decision to prevent the store from opening a location in the city came during a meeting that generated quite a bit of public comment and debate.
“I support their right to do business, but not outside my residential community,” said John Bertram, a resident in the nearby Quail Valley subdivision, during public comment last week. “It’s not my concern that they’ve lost $150,000 to $500,000 on this. I don’t want it.”
Representatives for the lingerie store have been feuding with the city over the definition of a sexually-oriented business. City inspectors in December deemed Cindie’s, 6302 State Highway 6, to be a sexually-oriented business – a categorization that would require the business to seek a rezoning request if company officials ever hoped to open in that location.
“I was denied and told they couldn’t give me a reason,” Greg Gant, the company’s director of operations, testified last week. “I believe 15 to 16 percent of our merchandise being novelty items is not significant, but I’d be willing to work within reason.”
Attorneys for the city, meanwhile, argued last week that Cindie’s was a sexually-oriented business, citing the company’s website and the fact that no one under 18 is allowed to visit as evidence.
“It’s telling, if they’re only a lingerie store, why don’t they let minors in unattended?” Assistant City Attorney Joe Quintal asked last week. “There are no signs restricting access at Victoria’s Secret, for instance. I ask you all to look behind the veil.”
Gant said Monday that he didn’t have any updates on the issue after the board rejected his appeal.
“We are working with our attorneys to figure out the next step,” he said.
The city has no appeals process beyond the zoning board of adjustment and appeals, Gant said.
In Gant’s telling of the story, the crux of the issue boils down to a city ordinance describing a sexually-oriented business as a place that derives a significant or substantial amount of its business from adult-oriented items.
“I am a lingerie store with some adult novelty items,” Gant said last week. “I’ve never questioned or hidden that. I’m not here to ask for the city’s rules to be changed. I’m here for an interpretation.”
Gant in his presentation before the board included pictures from a trip to a Missouri City Walmart showing many of the same items that appeared in his stores, and explained that some of the items listed on Cindie’s website weren’t available in store, just like some of the big box stores.
But members of the board questioned Cindie’s relationship to its website, which they argued was sexually-oriented.
“I would say, with Walmart, it doesn’t constitute a significant portion of their floor space,” one member said.
More than four Missouri City residents spoke in favor of Cindie’s opening in town, arguing the city had acted poorly by waiting so long before denying the business a certificate of occupancy.
“Right is right,” Chad Slater said.
But a bigger number of residents, most of whom were living in the Quail Valley subdivision near the proposed Cindie’s, spoke in opposition to the business opening.
“I support business and want it to thrive, but I do not support Cindie’s,” one resident said.