LAKEWOOD - Are Lakewood officials singling out the owner of an adult-oriented business?
That is one of the main questions to be answered in the village's lawsuit against Jill Laemmerhirt, owner of Endless Love.
In June, court proceedings began when the village filed a lawsuit against Laemmerhirt for opening her adult novelty business in Lakewood. The business is still open while court proceedings are ongoing. The business is located at 165 E. Fairmount Ave., Lakewood.
John Gullo, Laemmerhirt's attorney, said the charges relate to allegations that Laemmerhirt didn't get proper permission for the location, she doesn't have permission for a sign and she is operating in violation of a moratorium. Gullo said his client has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
In April, Laemmerhirt proposed opening a sex-related business in the American Mattress Plaza, 305 E. Fairmount Ave. The village's Planning Board approved the proposal, but the owner of the plaza then decided not to lease retail space to Laemmerhirt for the business.
Then in May, the Lakewood Village Board established a moratorium on issuing special-use permits to adult novelty businesses because they are not addressed in the village's zoning laws. The moratorium is supposed to last for about six months while village officials address sex-related businesses in its zoning.
Gullo said he feels Lakewood officials have applied their laws unfairly toward Laemmerhirt because of the nature of her business. Gullo said the moratorium on adult novelty stores is an example of Lakewood officials singling out his client. He said Laemmerhirt had already opened her business, in the second proposed location, by the time the moratorium was passed by the Village Board.
''From our perspective, their zoning rules apply differently to my client than every other business,'' he said. ''We plan to fight this vigorously. This is America - rules have to be applied to everyone fairly.''
According to both Gullo and David Wordelmann, Lakewood mayor, the village's zoning laws don't specifically have regulations for adult novelty businesses.
''They don't have zoning rules for her type of business,'' Gullo said. ''Every business that isn't specifically mentioned under the code should get treated the same way, but we feel they are applying rules differently because it is a different type of business.''
Wordelmann agreed there are no laws specifically addressing adult novelty stores in the village's zoning code. However, there is a clause stating if a type of business is not specifically mentioned in the zoning, the owner must acquire a special-use permit from village officials before opening.
''In the zoning laws, any use not listed by right in the zoning, like an adult novelty store, must obtain a special-use permit,'' Wordelmann said. ''She failed to have any dialogue with us about opening up. She found a place and didn't tell us. We didn't know until she was in business. We feel she has gone against our zoning laws.''
Wordelmann said his predecessor as mayor, the late Anthony Caprino, felt it would be better not to mention adult-oriented business specifically in the zoning, but to use the unspecified type of business clause to handle each on a case-by-case basis.
''There is a clause, if it is not listed (in the zoning), you must obtain a special-use permit,'' Wordelmann said.
The next court date in the case has been scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 22. Gullo said both parties will argue their side of the case that night, and then the judge will follow with his ruling. Also, Gullo said the judge could dismiss some of the charges against his client.
''It would be unusual for the judge to make his decision that night, but he could possibly do that,'' Gullo said.
The Busti Town Justice hearing the case is Lyle Hajdu.