N.J. Township Prosecuting Adult Store, Pushing for Removal of Signs

CINNAMINSON, N.J. — Officials overseeing redevelopment in the township of Cinnaminson have announced plans to prosecute adult retailer Fantasy Gifts for zoning violations, ordering the store to take down its signage in the plaza where it is located, according to the Burlington County Times.

Burlington County Superior Court Assignment Judge John A. Sweeney ruled on Monday that the township was within its rights to forbid Fantasy Gifts and other adult-related retailers from opening in a redevelopment area.

Fantasy Gifts opened in July, but was ordered to close two days later by Sweeney because the store's owners, Robert and Deanna Bertino, had failed to acquire the necessary permits and approvals to operate there. The owners attempted to acquire those permits and approvals from the township Zoning Board, and were denied. They went to the court with a request to have that decision overruled, but Sweeney came down in favor of the township with his Monday ruling.

"The judge's decision affirms the appropriateness of the township's identification of what is and is not beneficial to a redevelopment area," said Mayor Beau Adams. "The Township Committee and the Planning Board have worked very hard on crafting a redevelopment area that will successfully meet the needs of the community. This decision advances those community interests."

In regard to the signs erected by Fantasy Gifts, township zoning officer John Marshall said, "They're not allowed to be on the property, so I don't know why they haven't removed the signs."

Marshall said he already cited the store's owners once for installing the signs without proper permits and approvals, and added, "If the signs don't come down, I'll have to issue more summonses." That case was delayed pending Judge Sweeney's ruling on the store's business permit request, and it now will be heard in municipal court.

Cinnaminson's construction officials also fined Fantasy Gifts for failing to obtain permits and approvals prior to construction and electrical work that was done on the store, Marshall said.

Committeeman Anthony Minniti, who serves as the township's director of economic development, called Sweeney's ruling "a significant victory for our township, and particularly for our efforts to create a redevelopment area that serves the needs of the community through our redevelopment and commercial zoning."

When the township adopted a redevelopment ordinance four years ago, Minniti said, it had a vision of the types of businesses it wanted to promote in the area, and adult-oriented stores were not part of that vision.

"There were a number of businesses that did not fit the description," he said. "Adult uses are one type, but we also prohibit cocktail lounges, bowling alleys, tattoo parlors and the like."