With its ambiguous name and partially blocked windows, the Comfort Zone on Baltimore Avenue doesn’t look like your typical variety store. But co-owner Robert Carl maintains the shop complies with county zoning laws that allow it to sell a variety of goods, including costumes and lingerie, while keeping adult toys to 10 percent of its stock.
With its ambiguous name and most of the windows covered, the store on Route 1 north of campus doesn’t look like a place that would sell sex toys. But once inside, the store is filled with everything from costumes to dildos and vibrators. A selection of lube is also available.
While some students may be turned off by the adult-oriented wares, others say it’s good to have a local shop that sells them, rather than having to buy them online. “Even if it’s kind of creepy, it makes it easier for students,” said senior microbiology major Kang Zheng.
County zoning law says stores that display more than 10 percent of adult content violate a city permit. The board of zoning appeals decided Wednesday to hold another hearing on the issue in May. A College Park resident who lives a few blocks away testified during the hearing, saying he wanted to close the store. But Carl’s attorney, Levi Zaslow, argued that the store does not violate zoning laws because it isn’t an “adult store” under the city’s definition.
With its ambiguous name and most of its windows covered, the Comfort Zone on Route 1 north of campus doesn’t immediately arouse curiosity. But step inside and it’s another story. Costumes line one wall, lingerie and sex toys on the other. Vibrators and lube are in between, along with handcuffs and other restraints.
A neighbor who lives in a condominium less than 100 feet from the store testified Wednesday that the sex-toy shop isn’t appropriate for College Park, where children live nearby. But a lawyer for store co-owner Robert Carl says the city’s zoning violation is unfounded and that the store’s wares are hardly sexual in nature.
A hearing before the county’s Board of Appeals will continue in January to determine whether the store is in compliance with its use and occupancy permit. If it’s not, the store will have to limit its adult items to 10 percent of its floor space or move. Carl has opted to appeal the zoning violation.
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