SlingerVille Articles
Marion City Council changes rules to allow tattoo parlor
Article by: SlingerVille Staff
July 13, 2012

The Marion City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday to change the city’s zoning rules which would allow a tattoo parlor to open at 121 Railroad St. However, city officials would not change the rules so a second tattoo parlor could set up shop on Main Street.

The issue about tattoo parlors in Marion took up much of the regular council meeting on Tuesday. A public hearing was held about some requested changes to the city’s rules concerning tattoo parlors and body piercing shops. City officials were faced with two different tattoo parlors that both wanted to open in downtown.

Daron James Codner made an application to expand the city’s current zoning rules to allow for tattoo and body piercing establishments within the city’s C-1 Central Business District. This district includes Main Street, Logan Street, a part of Fort Street and a small section of East Court and Garden streets. If approved, this would have allowed him to apply for a special exception use for that zoning district.

Codner said he wanted to open his tattoo parlor at the corner of Main and Railroad streets. His proposed business would be located in the corner building’s second floor, above Second Chance Furniture.

In addition, Chris and Pam Todd made an application with the city’s Board of Adjustment, which would allow for them to open their planned tattoo parlor at 121 Railroad St. This place is located within the city’s C-2 Central Business District, which is away from Main Street and somewhat less restrictive than the C-1 district.

In addition, the C-2 Central Business District includes sections of the five lane, the southwest portion of Sugar Hill Road (within city limits) and the southeast portion of Rutherford Road. The area near the intersection of U.S. 221 South and Interstate 40 is in this district, too, according to City Planner Heather Cotton.

Codner and the Todds also asked that city officials change the rules about where a tattoo parlor can open inMarion. The city’s ordinance has stated that “tattoo parlors, body piercing shops and fortune telling or any combination thereof” could not be located or operated within 1,000 feet of a church, a school, a public library, a park or playground, a child care facility, a group home facility or an entertainment business that is child-oriented.

Chris Todd said he and his wife have looked all over Marion for suitable places to open their business, but every place they found fell under the restrictions of this ordinance or was too expensive. The shop he and his wife wish to open on Railroad Street is only 60 feet shy of being in compliance with the city ordinance.

“We’ve been pigeonholed,” he told council. “I kind of feel we’re being discriminated against because of what we pursue. I don’t feel like the ordinance is fair the way it stands now.”

“We want to be part of the city, too,” said Pam Todd.

Codner asked for a 100-foot separation in the C-1 and C-2 districts. He asked for an additional requirement that tattoo and body piercing establishments in the C-1 District be located on floors above or below the street level to make them less visible.

The Todds said their parlor would be regulated by state health officials and would provide tattoos in a safe and sterilized environment. Their clients would not have to travel to another city or county to get tattooed anymore.

Furthermore, tattoo artists and those who get tattoos are not bad people, they added.

“This ordinance makes people who get tattooed look like they are against the church and religion,” said Chris Todd. “This is far from the truth. The majority of tattoos that I do are spiritual pieces or memorial pieces. I’ve tattooed Christians as well as EMTs, nurses, firefighters, police officers, sheriff deputies, school teachers, veterans, people from every branch of the U.S. military and every walk of life. I could go on and on about my clientele.”

Likewise, Codner said his business at the corner of Main and Railroad would be located on the building’s second floor above street level. This would make it less visible for some people who find such businesses “offensive or inappropriate,” according to a city memo.

“I am trying to do this with the utmost class and respect to the downtown level,” he said. “I will do as much as I can to support local charities and local business organizations.”

On Thursday, June 7, the city’s Planning Board unanimously recommended that the 1,000-foot separation be lowered to 500 feet, along with other changes.

After hearing from Codner and the Todds, council took up the discussion. Mayor Steve Little said he cannot vote on issues, except in the case of breaking a tie. But if he could vote, Little said twice he would vote against changing the rules so it would be easier for a tattoo parlor to open in downtown Marion.

“I don’t see these as being a benefit to downtown Marion,” he said.

However, Councilman Billy Martin stated he would make a motion to follow the Planning Board’s recommendation and change the 1,000-foot separation rule. Martin said that he didn’t think his personal bias should block someone from opening a business. His motion called for a 700-foot separation, based on city staff’s recommendation. Councilman Everette Clark seconded the motion and it passed 4-1, with Councilwoman Juanita Doggett voting against.

This change allows the Todds to open their parlor at 121 Railroad St.

Council agreed that any future tattoo parlors in the C-2 District would continue to go through the special exception process. An applicant will have to get permission from the Board of Adjustment before opening a tattoo parlor or body piercing shop in that district.

But council voted unanimously not to change the rules for the C-1 Central Business District, as asked for by Codner. The Planning Board had recommended that tattoo parlors be allowed in the district as a special exception, if they are located above or below the street level and no residences are located in the same level as the tattoo parlor. Council agreed unanimously to buck the Planning Board’s recommendation and denied Codner’s request.

This means that Codner cannot open his shop at the corner of Main and Railroad or anywhere else on Main Street.

Council also voted to exempt greenways and other public trails from the separation requirement.

The discussion by council Tuesday night focused exclusively on tattoo parlors and body piercing shops. However, the section of the city rules that was changed originally included fortune telling in its wording. Fortune tellers still must follow the 1,000-foot separation rule.

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