Sex

Businessman Tells City Bureaucrats To Go Fuck Themselves; Offers To Sell Them the Means To Do So

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This story made my day.

Michael Zarlenga spent $350,000 to expand his hunting and fishing store in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia (just down the road from me). To cover his bases, Zarlenga paid an architectural firm to draw up eight separate plans he could submit to the city, and worked with the city's Board of Architectural Review every step of the way. According to the Washington Post, he consulted with and relied heavily upon the advice of the committee's principal staff member to be sure he did everything correctly.

You know where this is going.

But when the project came before the review board in 2007, it was rejected partly on Smith's recommendation that it would cause an "unreasonable loss of historic fabric." Zarlenga said Smith did not explain to him why he changed his mind. Smith has since died…

Zarlenga said he felt as though the rug had been pulled out from under him. He appealed to the City Council but lost in September 2007. Council members suggested he go back to the staff of the architectural review board and submit new plans.

For Zarlenga, it was the final straw. He choked back tears as he told the council he was finished: "I have no faith in the staff. . . . They have completely taken the integrity, as I see it, out of the system. . . . The simple fact is there's no money left, okay?"

But Zarlenga got his revenge. He leased the space—which is right on King Street, the main drag through utlra-touristy Old Town—to a sex shop. The shop is in full compliance with zoning laws, and even if the city were to change those laws, Zarlenga would have to be grandfathered in. Furious Alexandria officials are now looking into whether they can shut the shop down through obscenity laws.

In 2007, I wrote about how Alexandria's ridiculous zoning laws were achieving the exact opposite of their intent—to preserve Old Town's unique charm and identity.

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  1. Government should get bent over more often.

  2. Justice for an urban planner?

  3. this is a great example of blowback.

    all too often, politicians refuse to think twice about the potential unintended consequences of their actions. thanks to patriots like michael zarlenga, they are occasionally woken up to their boneheadness. as often happens when politicos are embarrassed by their own policies, they simply try to find another law to point to.

    here’s to hoping they fail to shut down the sex shop.

  4. He leased the space-which is right on King Street, the main drag through utlra-touristy Old Town-to a sex shop.

    YESSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!

  5. I loved this story when I came across it. Though it’s curious that sex shops were conforming in that district. It’s a poorly written code that allows LULUs like those along without some kind of special use permitting. Or standards that keep them in “Light Industrial”ish districts. I would’ve guessed they’d’ve put some kind of “Historical Preservation Overlay District” over the older neighborhood that would’ve been tied to pretty strict use regulations in addition to the ‘Board of Architectural Review’ circle jerk. Haha, suck on it Alexandria, birthplace of my father.

  6. Many, many years ago, when I was living in Colorado Springs, the self-appointed morality leaguers wanted a certain topless club shut down. After many attempts, the City Council managed to get their liquor license yanked, assuming that this would force them to close their doors.

    The owner and his attorneys put their heads together, and after a thorough examination of the law, reopened. Since they were not selling liquor, they were allowed to offer fully nude entertainers.

    Be careful what you wish for, motherfucker.

  7. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Fuckers.
    /Eric Cartman laugh.

  8. This is winning the battle but losing the war. The lesson the joes of the world will take from this is that this is what happens when you don’t regulate enough. At the end of the day, they still have all of the guns.

  9. I remember when I first saw that sex toy shop on King Street opposite all of the quaint restaurants, art galleries and antique stores. I said to myself: “Self, there has to be some story behind this.”

    And now we know the rest of that story. What a pity that Paul Harvey died before he could have related this tale.

  10. Mr. Zarlenga, I applaud you.

  11. are you suggesting that a storefront window full of fluorescent vibrating dildos somehow detracts from a neighborhood’s “unique charm and identity”?

  12. The lesson the joes of the world will take from this is that this is what happens when you don’t regulate enough.

    Sad, but true.

  13. Good for Zarlenga, even though I personally can’t stand the kind of shop he leased to.

    As another small business owner in Alexandria, I’ll state you need to be very careful here. The city bureaucrats have a way of exacting their own kind of revenge. The City of Alexandria has demonstrated to me, repeatedly, that they do not brook small business owning citizens standing up for their rights, regardless of the kind of business you run.

    Again, good for Zarlenga.

  14. anon-

    Why can’t you “stand the kind of shop he leased to?” I presume not in the same way that you can’t stand how people could ever work for the government, particularly, as urban planners or as historic district commission members.

  15. The “hunters” and “fishers” need to bring their supplies to the City Council and just start “hunting” and “fishing” for motherfuckers. They should do quite well.

  16. Zarlenga shrugged, Old Town gagged.

  17. hmmm, nsfw tag please for that link?

  18. From the article:
    “I believe it’s an inappropriate business to be located in our old and historic district,”

    Actually I think the opposite. For a town populated by rebels who overthrew their government, it’s a perfect business.

  19. It’s totally fucking rediculous that we cede power to a board whose policy is “First you spend the money, then submit your plans to our whim”.

    There should be a constitutional amendment (state level) “Any citizen making a good faith effort to comply with any regulation, is in compliance with said regulation”.

  20. I’d encourage the sex shop to put up big signs that say, “All anal plugs and vagina creams 50 percent off.”

  21. anon, so you “can’t stand the kind of shop” he leased to? according to its owner in the article, business is booming, even in this economy, and he owns nine other retail outlets in northern virginia, so he obviously has skin in the game.

    may i suggest that you speak to your significant other sometime about how to enhance her pleasure? too many men don’t do this. it could be something as simple as a tube of k-y jelly before the big saturday night, which is designed for this purpose and works a lot better than peanut butter or whatever you’re using now. then, if the lucky girl has a birthday coming up, google “pearl rabbit” and consider surprising her with one; when you’re out of town on business, it beats the pool boy for keeping her satisfied.

  22. Do you really need an NSFW tag for a link that says “sex shop”?

  23. Excellent story. And there’s definitely a lesson in here somewhere: if the government makes it impossibly to succeed running a traditional business, people will turn to, well, less traditional means of making a living. I feel horrible for Zarlenga, who clearly got caught in a bad situation, but I congratulate him for making the best out of it.

  24. Or how about:
    “Welcome to Historic Old Town! We’ve got all your knob-waxing gay porn and fisting supplies to make your balls ache.”

  25. Elected officials trying to “fix” poorly written laws often remind me of semi-competent programmers trying to salvage a buggy, overly-complicated program by throwing more and more code at it.
    Eventually you have to accept that the program is utter crap and re-write it from scratch.

  26. The owner and his attorneys put their heads together, and after a thorough examination of the law, reopened. Since they were not selling liquor, they were allowed to offer fully nude entertainers.

    Something very similar happened in Louisville.

  27. Revenge would be if the sex shop sold a box set of assorted small withered dildos and called it The Alexandria Review Board.

  28. Good for Zarlenga, even though I personally can’t stand the kind of shop he leased to.

    I browsed the online store and it sells a whole lot of plus-sized lingerie. anon hates fatties.

  29. I’m litigating a case right now dealing with this crap. An architect and builder plans and executes a building according to the specs approved by the city. Then *poof* the city decides is doesn’t approve of itself anymore. Millions of dollars are lost while smug politicians micromanage the city’s vanity.

  30. At the end of the day, they still have all of the guns.

    Not by a long shot.

  31. Smith has since died…

    Coincidence? I think not…

  32. The owner and his attorneys put their heads together, and after a thorough examination of the law, reopened. Since they were not selling liquor, they were allowed to offer fully nude entertainers.

    Further proof that when you have a spontaneous-order system run by acting humans, no amount of outside fudging and intervention will deliver the expected results. This fact is reason why there cannot be a successful command-and-control management of a complex system like the market. Some people tend to ignore this, usually employing irrelevant platitudes to justify interventions like “fighting greed”, or “working for community” (right, Neu?), with unexpected and most often than not, nasty results. When things explode in the face of the interventionists, they always blame anyone or anything else but their stupidity.

  33. Millions of dollars are lost while smug politicians micromanage the city’s vanity.

    Think of the massive advantage that gives to friends of the city, whose plans suffer no such *poof*s.

    Alexandria’s ridiculous zoning laws were achieving the exact opposite of their intent

    You misjudged their intent.

  34. libertymike and bruce, thank you for upholding the H&R tradition of confusing libertarianism and libertinism. Perhaps libertarianism wouldn’t be in the dire straits it finds itself in now if sexually “liberated” types who insist on social conservatives living and letting live could, well, live and let live.

  35. Rabscuttle, they may just be guilty of poor reading skills and assumed his lack of a standard libertarian disclaimer amounted to a belief that anon was arguing for a law.

    Of course, that would be hard to do, since anon said “Good on Zarlenga” twice.

  36. Great move. I loved Old Town Alexandria when I lived in NoVA, but there always was a terrible lack of sex shops in the neighborhood.

    -jcr

  37. which is designed for this purpose and works a lot better than peanut butter or whatever you’re using now

    I don’t even want to know if people use creamy or crunchy style for that.

    -jcr

  38. thank you rabscuttle, for your amusing conflation of the enhancement of a woman’s sexual pleasure with libertinism. the women in your life, just like your employers, should just be damn glad that you manage to show up regularly with a halfway decent attitude, right?

  39. thank you for upholding the H&R tradition of confusing libertarianism and libertinism.

    What’s a libertine, if not a person that indulges in pleasures YOU don’t find acceptable? People have self-ownership and are free to pursuit their happiness in any way they see fit, provided they do not stop others from pursuing their own happiness or step over their rights (negative, not positive).

    This means that catering to your sensibilities is NOT a right you possess, since the burden would be imposed on others. It is YOUR responsibility to restrain your own hangups and prejudices.

    Bottom line, nobody is confusing libertarianism with being libertine, because there is NO such thing as being a libertine PROVIDED the person acting in liberty does so without trampling on other people’s natural rights.

  40. If you are a Puritan, a libertarian is a libertine is a terrible thing.

  41. Nothing is more pitiful than libertarians who — like their counterparts on the right and left — cannot make the distinction between the legal and the moral. I absolutely oppose the use of coercion to stop people from doing things that don’t harm anyone else. But at the same time I reserve the right to hold in contempt those who do victimless things I believe are morally wrong. If this is an imponderable conundrum for you guys to figure out, sorry, that’s how I roll.

  42. bruce,

    I oppose sex toys designed for men as well, so playing the misogynist card ain’t gonna fly. And you don’t know shit about the women in my life, let alone the employers, so don’t pretend you do. Suffice it to say if they’re not satisfied with my “showing up” they’re free to tell me to fly a kite. Free market and stuff, you know.

  43. for some reason, i imagined rabscuttle’s 7:06 comment read in the voice of that other uncompromising libertarian lover, popeye the sailor man addressing bluto, and concluding “i yam what i yam.”

    no rabscuttle, your 6:56 comment isn’t an imponderable conundrum, it’s a transparent symptom of your moral hangups that compel you to “hold in contempt” so many of your innocent neighbors. you sound very judgmental, which at a wild guess based on decades of experience and social interaction, suggests to me that you’re probably not very much fun to be around. my suggestion, and you’re free to take it or leave it, would be for you to develop greater understanding and empathy with your neighbors at least enough to dial your current contempt down to mild disapproval.

  44. But at the same time I reserve the right to hold in contempt those who do victimless things I believe are morally wrong.

    You have a right to feel outrage. However, your outrage is NOT argument to question the libertarian principles of personal freedom and personal choice. Either the position held is cogent and congruent with the principle of self-ownership, or it is not.

    Also, you confuse moral with palatable – you may NOT find certain practices palatable, but again, your sensibilities are NOT the benchmark for moral action. Moral action (i.e. what’s good) should be judged by the action itself – does the action trample on someone’s else rights to liberty, property, self-ownership? If yes, the action is immoral, and if NO, it cannot be immoral. Again, it may not be PALATABLE to you, but that would be your subjective appreciation, not the benchmark or baseline for moral judgment. It is not possible that your judgment is better than mine, or anybody’s else.

  45. A variation of this story played out years ago, near the burg that I lived in. Where a guy that owned a rinkydink gas station expanded and threw in a restaurant and new diesel pumps. This cut into the action for a long established truckstop 10 miles up the road. Soon, for whatever reasons, the county was all over the upstart’s business. After getting fucked with by aggressive government for a bit, he sold out to a dildo and smut king with lots of experience in navigating the legal action associated with retail dildo and smut sales.

    From a texpayer’sperspective, it was kinda ugly. The city, township, and county took turns running into dude’s wicked buzzsaw of a legal defense for a while. Eventual they developed an aversion to dragging the litigious old guy (and his attending savvy attorney) into court. Something was learned by all involved.

  46. crimethink/ rabscuttle – isn’t your morality Bible-based?

    what happened to “judge not, etc.”?

  47. But at the same time I reserve the right to hold in contempt those who do victimless things I believe are morally wrong.

    Knock yourself out. I’m sure the Supreme Being will be mightily impressed with your moral sensibilities. As long as you stay in the non-coercion camp I got no problem with ya.

  48. This is the best news I’ve heard this year. I lived in Old Town for many years, loved the old Orvis/Trophy Room, and was mightily cheesed off when I heard the news about their closing. Given what types of people run that city, my hunch has always been that they were afraid of the (absolutely gorgeous) guns sold in the store. Recall that the Peoples Republic of Old Town also exercised eminent domain to remove Potomac Arms and Full Metal Jacket. The Potomac Arms was a local treasure… a devastating loss.

    Zarlenga is my new hero.

  49. bruce,

    this whole thing started with you guys ragging on anon for saying he didn’t like sex shops. And I’m the judgemental one?

    FTG,

    Libertarianism is a political philosophy, not a moral one, which is why I like it. Under a libertarian regime people of wildly different moral beliefs can live alongside each other in harmony, so long as individuals don’t try to foist their moral restrictions (or lack thereof) on others.

    tio,

    Were we to interpret that verse the way you suggest, it would swallow up the rest of the Bible in a poof of smoke, and you’d be left with Unitarian “believe what you want, just give us money” insipidity. Christians are not supposed to presume to know how people are with God, but that doesn’t mean we should pretend that obvious sins are not what they are.

  50. Under a libertarian regime people of wildly different moral beliefs can live alongside each other in harmony, so long as individuals don’t try to foist their moral restrictions (or lack thereof) on others.

    Or, in the spirit of the article under discussion, you are free to live with a stick up your arse and I with a butt plug up mine.

    And we’re both free to ridicule the others choice.

  51. so, the Bible isn’t to be taken literally?

  52. I should say that the last thing I want is to get into an argument over sexual morality here. I know I’m vastly outnumbered and have not a snowball’s chance in Antarctica of convincing people to copulate in accordance with God’s will. But I could not stand idly by while anon was beleaguered by unjust criticism.

  53. I’m a Catholic, not a fundie, dammit! If the literal meaning of a quote stripped from context is antithetical to the rest of the Faith, no, I don’t believe it. In context it is clear Jesus meant that we are not to presume to know the state of another person’s soul. He definitely wasn’t saying that hey, maybe it’s OK after all to lie and commit adultery and break the other commandments too. This is the same guy who said that lusting after a woman is equivalent to adultery, and detraction is equivalent to murder. Not exactly a cosmotarian.

  54. Unjust criticism? you leaped down LM’s throat for asking a question and bruce’s suggesting that anon had a (shared, obviously) stick up his ass about sex toys.

    I don’t see anything unjust about either of those; likewise, I don’t see anything unjust about anon or you defending yourselves. AFAICT, however, no one here was equating libertarianism and libertinism. That was an argument YOU brought up.

    at the same time I reserve the right to hold in contempt those who do victimless things I believe are morally wrong. If this is an imponderable conundrum for you guys to figure out, sorry, that’s how I roll.

    And others reserve the right to call you a Papist-lovin’ masochistic fool who takes all the fun out of life with constant moralizing. That’s how THEY roll.

  55. “He definitely wasn’t saying that hey, maybe it’s OK after all to lie and commit adultery and break the other commandments too.”

    I never said he did. The Bible is for people to choose to follow freely or not, and it’s God’s place to judge people and their actions, it’s not for other people to judge, if you believe in the Bible.

    Use the Bible to judge your own actions, or if someone asks for your input. Otherwise, keep it to yourself as long as someone isn’t harming someone else.

    Libertarianism might not necessarily equal libertinism, but it allows for it and the possibility of a coincidence between the two.

  56. As a parting question, I’m curious if M. Potter follows Leviticus 15: 19-24.

    Of course, given I Corin. 7:1-2, I expect sexual repression to be the order of the day:

    “7:1 Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.
    7:2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.”

    Thanks tons, Paul.

  57. TAO, bruce was way out of line. He was casting aspersions on anon’s sexual relationships (as well as my hypothetical ones) because he doesn’t like sex toys. Presumably if you don’t use mechanical devices in your lovemaking you must have sexaul issues — one wonders how humanity managed to reproduce during the milennia before sexual technology advanced to its current state!

    And FTG was quite explicitly saying that nothing that is consistent with the NAP is libertinism. That’s precisely conflation of libertarianism and libertinism.

    Finally, libertymike’s “question” was a rhetorical one. It was clear from the context that LM disapproves of anon’s disapproval.

    So yes, I may not have been as diplomatic as I should have been, but I’m satisfied that I had just grounds for intervention in all these cases.

  58. I don’t know Leviticus by heart, TAO. What are you referring to?

    As for Paul’s quotes, they’re being taken out of context. He was probably responding to a suggestion that everyone should be celibate like he was so that they could devote their lives to preaching the Gospel — this was a common attitude in the early Church, as Jesus’ return was thought imminent. If this is the case, then Paul’s statement acts as a moderating influence on possibly overzealous underlings.

    It’s pretty implausible to say that he was asserting personal authority to say whether people could get married or not. Verses like this are why I’m glad not to be a fundie.

  59. Libertarianism might not necessarily equal libertinism, but it allows for it and the possibility of a coincidence between the two.

    That may be so, but it also allows for an overlap with puritanism. This is what some in these parts have trouble with.

  60. No, some in these parts have trouble with puritanism being forced upon them. Be as puritanical as you wish.

    However, take it from a recovered southern Baptist: you really, really need to get laid.

  61. Here’s the problem: to say that it is good for a man not to touch a woman is stating that it is explicitly a good thing to deny the urges that Nature (or God) placed in us for a purpose.

    And look at the purposive clause Paul puts in there: “to avoid fornication”. It isn’t good to have a wife in and of itself, it’s good only insofar as it prevents “fornication”…which, IMHO, is a pretty stupid motivation that an omniscient God is going to see right through.

    one wonders how humanity managed to reproduce during the milennia before sexual technology advanced to its current state!

    Mein Gott…it’s almost like those dastardly humans are attempting to improve on something that people find fun! Like, perhaps sex doesn’t have to be about procreation?

    Here’s the point you’re either intentionally missing or being unwillfully obtuse over: When people “cast aspersions” about one’s sex life, they’re saying you’re not having very much fun in your sex life, not that you aren’t performing the rote mechanics of the act.

    it also allows for an overlap with puritanism. This is what some in these parts have trouble with.

    No one is having trouble with it. No one is advocating that your rights be curtailed because you’re sexually repressed. We’re just making fun of the repressed independently.

  62. When people “cast aspersions” about one’s sex life, they’re saying you’re not having very much fun in your sex life, not that you aren’t performing the rote mechanics of the act.

    Well I’m not doing either the fun or the mechanics, so it doesn’t apply to me. However, I would think there’s a degree of “fun” in doing things naturally without any specially molded plastics or batteries required.

  63. Whatever you have to do to have a good time, let’s get on with it, so long as it doesn’t cause a murder.

  64. “Well I’m not doing either the fun or the mechanics”

    Nuff said.

  65. Rabscuttle is correct. After all, batteries get expensive over time! Do you people realize the savings!!!

    Rabscuttle,

    I was raised deep woods baptist so I got questions. WTF is up with Catholic ceremonies? All this kneeling, sitting, , greeting, rising, praying, and what’s up with the dude with the toy globe with smoke coming out of it? It was simple with Baptists. Greet everyone before church. Listen to sermon for an hour and a half, greet everyone after service, go to Denny’s. Done. No bizarre wafer, no guy with smoking toy globe, no Latin, etc.

  66. City planners will pull this kind of stunt even in town with boarded up abandoned shops. Someone will try to open up say a dentists office in a boarded up abandoned shop and get a ton of hassle from the planning department. And not just about the wiring and whatever else the fire department makes them worry about, but with changes to the facade. Like anything the new business could do to the facade would be worse the leaving the place boarded up.

  67. Reading the article, a lot of the complaining neighbors make a big deal about how the sex shop is just a short distance from St. Robert E. Lee’s boyhood home.

    The zoning board’s response should read: How dare you disgrace the honor of a Southern gentleman in this manner? Pistols at dawn, sir!

  68. Naga,

    The Mass and Protestant Sunday gatherings are serving different purposes. The Mass is a re-presentation of Jesus’ death and resurrection, where heaven and earth worship in unison. As heaven will not closely resemble a stuffy meeting hall with a guy preaching up in front, it would be inappropriate if the Mass resembled this (though many parishes have, in contravention of canon law, come awfully close to this). If Catholics want to sit there and listen to a sermon for 90 minutes there are “missions” and bible studies available at other times during the week.

  69. rabscuttle: “one wonders how humanity managed to reproduce during the millennia before sexual technology reached its current state.”

    the same way we were able to start fires before matches and disposable lighters were invented. manually! that doesn’t mean we need to rub two sticks together for 15 minutes every time we want a bong hit.

    so you’re a catholic. tell me, how does your self-proclaimed libertarianism relate to membership in a faith which holds that women’s bodies and choices should be controlled by legislation, that gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry, that embryonic stem-cell research should be banned, and that a terminally ill senior wracked with pain shouldn’t be able to get a simple, merciful prescription to put him out of his misery with the same level of humanity that we would have no problem exhibiting to a dog or a cat in similar circumstances. isn’t catholicism all about controlling what nonbelievers do and bringing them around to your way of thinking and acting?

  70. isn’t catholicism all about controlling what nonbelievers do and bringing them around to your way of thinking and acting?

    Well that’s not a loaded question at all, is it?! To address the second part first, there’s no conflict between libertarianism and persuasion…however much you may prefer that there were when the persuasion is religious in nature.

    On the first charge, you’re assuming that Catholicism requires that all immoral things also be illegal. This is not so, as the Church’s binding teaching authority extends only to matters of faith and morals, not law and politics.

    In the case of abortion it’s pretty much a slam dunk to go from its immorality to illegality; if you think it’s the wanton destruction of an innocent human being, it’s pretty hard to also think it should be legal.

    On suicide it’s not as simple, as one can believe it to be utterly immoral and yet acknowledge that it does not directly harm anyone else. Recent popes and most bishops rail against legalizing assisted suicide (and in many cases they have legit concerns about the grisly possibility of elderly people being pressured to consent by their family or the state), but this teaching is not binding as it is political in nature. Ditto for the capital punishment teaching, which carefully avoids contradicting Scripture and two milennia of Catholic teaching by arguing not that CP is inherently immoral, but that CP was needed in the past but isn’t needed any more, and the less nuanced gay marriage teachings.

  71. one wonders how humanity managed to reproduce during the milennia before sexual technology advanced to its current state!

    That was BEFORE TV, the intertubez, hell, even the printed word. They didn’t have anything else to DO. Catholic you might be, but obviously not Irish.

  72. I’d just like to point out that, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, masturbation is more gravely immoral than rape: ST 2a2ae, q. 154, a. 12.

    Read it for yourself: http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3154.htm#article12

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