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Unwelcome Addition

The initial construction on a vacant lot in Deer Valley, Ariz., barely raised an eyebrow in the Phoenix suburb. But when the building started taking shape, parents and local school officials mobilized to stop the project.

That's because they realized the castle structure was the trademark design of Castle Boutique, a chain of stores that sells adult merchandise, including erotic videos, lingerie, and sex toys. It has locations throughout the Phoenix area.

Despite the location within walking distance of three public schools and a residential neighborhood, the company quietly won approval from municipal authorities to build a megastore on the site.

Now, leaders of the 30,000-student Deer Valley Unified district are hoping to get that approval overturned. They cite a state law that requires anything "obscene" to be at least 2,000 feet from schools and residences.

If they fail, they are threatening to pay to condemn the site, which is within the school board's authority, and use it to build a support facility for the district. The move could cost the district millions of dollars.

School officials are concerned that many students must walk past the location as they go to and from school. They also argue that the incidence of sex offenses and violent crimes tends to be much higher in the vicinity of such businesses.

"No amount of landscaping or camouflage will disguise what our parents and children know to exist on this corner," Superintendent Bill Hill wrote to city officials. "Construction of an adult-themed store of this nature so close to our schools is simply inappropriate."

The outcry prompted Mayor Skip Rimsza to withhold the necessary certificate of occupancy—preventing the store from opening—until after a public hearing.The owner of the business did not return calls.

In the meantime, parents have organized protests and urged community members to write to their state and local lawmakers. One parent has created a Web site chronicling the controversy and enlisting other opponents in the cause.

In its "summary of developments," the Web site lists an Oct. 3 meeting with city zoning officials, followed by protest rallies. Still to be scheduled: A "Wrecking Ball" community party to "celebrate the eradication of the Porn Palace."

—Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

Vol. 22, Issue 4, Page 3

Published in Print: September 25, 2002, as Take Note

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