Parishioners battle adult bookstore

By Rob Cullivan/Catholic Courier    |    02.25.2005
Category: Local News


Parishioners at Most Precious Blood and Holy Rosary churches on Rochester's west side are among those battling a proposed adult bookstore on Lee Road in Greece, just outside the city line.

If the bookstore is established, parishioners say it could become a magnet for prostitution and other problems, including drug use.

"This neighborhood is a big issue to me, and I don't want garbage in it," said Bonnie Coleman, president of the pastoral council at Most Precious Blood. Coleman and other parishioners have joined with Interfaith Action, a federation of Monroe County churches, businesses and organizations, to oppose the bookstore.

The Town of Greece's Zoning Board of Appeals is slated to announce March 15 whether it will approve an application from Jan DeGroote, owner of the proposed bookstore, for variances to Greece zoning restrictions requiring that adult businesses be located at least 1,000 feet from schools, churches, child-care centers, parks or playgrounds, according to Gary Tajkowski, Greece's director of development services.

The site of DeGroote's proposed bookstore is within 50 feet of one residence and less than 1,000 feet from five other residences, Tajkowski said. He added that residents living near the site of the proposed bookstore objected to its establishment during a Feb. 15 public hearing.

But even those living more than 1,000 feet from the proposed adult bookstore fear its possible negative effects, according to Father Gary Tyman, pastor of Most Precious Blood and Holy Rosary.

"We're saying that the negative effects of this business will be felt in both the city and Greece," said Father Tyman, who attended the Feb. 15 hearing.

Most Precious Blood parishioner Bernardine Gordon, who lives with her extended family less than a half-mile from the proposed bookstore's site, said parishioners fear the bookstore might attract prostitution to Sebastian Park near the church. She noted that similar concerns about the park and surrounding neighborhood fueled Interfaith Action's 1999 legal battle to block establishment of a nude juice bar on Mount Read Boulevard. The juice bar ultimately was allowed to open, though it has since ceased operation. The battle also led to the adoption of stricter regulations regarding adult businesses in Rochester.

"I'm hoping against hope that we'll win," Gordon said of the battle against the bookstore.

Coleman said she noted during the Feb. 15 hearing that the bookstore will be located within 1,240 feet of Edison Technical High School. In her statement, a copy of which she provided to the Catholic Courier, she asked "How will these variances affect (Edison's) facilities, staff and students?"

Tajkowski said Greece cannot legally ban adult businesses, but can regulate them. The zoning board must fairly weigh the pros and cons of a variance application, he added.

"New York state zoning law requires the zoning board to weigh the potential benefits to an applicant vs. the potential detriment to the neighbors," he said.

Father Tyman noted that the neighbors had spoken. "The upshot was that the zoning board understands people care about this issue," he said.

When the Courier attempted to contact DeGroote for comment, a woman who answered the phone at his Show World Videos store in Henrietta said, "We have no comment."

According to a report by Rochester television station News 10 NBC, DeGroote's lawyers have complained that the Town of Greece changed its zoning laws in December, after DeGroote purchased the Lee Road property and filed for permits.

However, Tajkowski told the Courier that the zoning changes had been in the works for some time, and were not related to DeGroote's application.

Copyright © 2005 Catholic Courier, Inc. All rights reserved. Linking is encouraged, but republishing or redistributing, including by framing or similar means, without the publisher's prior written permission is prohibited.

Sign up for our FREE weekly e-newsletters!

Choose from news (Monday), leisure (Thursday) or worship (Saturday) — or get all three!