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Carolina Beach Council Approves Tattoo Studios By Special Permit

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CAROLINA BEACH - The Carolina Beach Town Council voted at their January 8, meeting to allow tattoo studios in the Highway Business District (Lake Park Blvd).
The Council voted three to two in favor of permitting them as a Conditional Use. New studios will have to first obtain a Conditional Use Permit and meet certain conditions including hours of operation from 8AM to 9PM and a certain distance from residential districts. Those permits are reviewed by the Planning and Zoning Commission and then by the Town Council who ultimately approves or denies issuing a permit.
That means next month the Planning Commission could hear a request for a conditional use permit for a tattoo studio and the following month the Council would consider approving that permit.
Mayor Bob Lewis and Council members Jody Smith and Steve Shuttleworth voted in favor. Council members Tom Bridges and Sarah Freide voted no. Shuttleworth initiated the vote in favor of allowing them by permit.
It was a long public hearing with numerous people speaking for and against allowing tattoo studios.
The Carolina Beach Planning and Zoning Commission voted four to three at their December 13, meeting to recommend the Town Council not approve the rezoning request.
According to Planning Director Ed Parvin, Dixon Broadfoot is requesting to allow body piercing and tattoo studios in that district. Currently they are not permitted anywhere in Carolina Beach. Parvin said the Town has denied previous requests for this type of business-use.
Broadfoot purchased a unit within the Pleasure Island Plaza on North Lake Park Blvd with plans to open a tattoo studio.
Many of the business and property owners from the Plaza attended the meeting to voice their opposition to the request.
Ken Horne owns an insurance company located in the Plaza and said he's not against tattoos but he purchased the property in that commercial development based on other similar services such as real estate and a law office. He said a tattoo studio is not a similar type of business and would likely cause people to turn away rather than visit his business.
Other business owners in that development echoed the same concern. 
Councilman Shuttleworth pointed out there's a henna tattoo shop on the Boardwalk in the downtown area. He admitted that type of tattoo is temporary, but said it still says, "Tattoo" on the shop.
Shuttleworth said, "Are we discriminating now between a permanent tattoo and a temporary tattoo?"
Henna tattoo shops have been permitted even though they are not listed as a permissible use in the zoning ordinance.
Shuttleworth said if they're allowed and not specifically listed in the zoning ordinance, neither are "tattoo shops".
Councilman Tom Bridges said he voted against the request when serving on the Planning Commission and he feels it's an issue of perception. He said he's got nothing against tattoos and his son has several.
He said tattoos are more mainstream now than in years past but, "It's the perception. I was a principal for 19 years in Charlotte and some of the schools I had had bad perceptions. The thing about perception is, it doesn't have to be accurate, it doesn't even have to be current. Every time somebody told me something bad about a school I was assigned to, it was probably from their kids. And their kids were already adults. Perception is pervasive. It does not go away. It's hard to turn it around."
Bridges said, "It's nothing against the applicant" and they are approving a change for the entire district, not just the property owned by Broadfoot.
He said, "We have tried to have a positive affect on the perception of this Island, and I'm afraid that will open the Pandora’s box for our perception. We're on a positive track now and I'm afraid that it may take a bump that we can't survive from."
Shuttleworth made a motion to approve allowing tattoo studios in the Highway Business District under a conditional use permit with certain conditions such as a 200-foot buffer from residential districts, 200 feet from a church or school, 200 feet from public parks and 400 feet from other studios.
Mayor Bob Lewis recommended limiting hours to 8AM to 9PM seven days a week.
Shuttleworth said the property owner's association in the Pleasure Island Plaza has the ability to enforce certain standards.
Council member Jody Smith said she hopes Broadfoot's shop will not have the negative impact that other owners have expressed concern over and, "I hope it could potentially be a progressive idea for Carolina Beach rather than an eyesore."
Bridges said he doesn't have a problem with Broadfoot, but eventually he may sell his business and the next owner will operate differently.
Council member Sarah Freide said, "We have to assume that people will come and they will not make the best decision based on the market and every single one of these properties... could potentially turn into a place where people can get tattoos and is that what we want when people come through Carolina Beach?"
Broadfoot explained the he wants to offer a service to the community that will implement safe regulations for tattooing in Carolina Beach providing a healthy and safe environment through a governed service.
Broadfoot explained that will bring new clientele and revenue while increasing revenues for other area merchants.
He explained, "Much of Carolina Beach's revenue is generated from tourism, this will keep tourists on the Island giving them a full service city by keeping those from venturing out to other surrounding cities for the same service.
He said presently the Town doesn't permit tattooing in it's code of ordinances and, "That creates an opportunity for black market services allowing tattoos to be performed
illegally which is a loss of revenue and creates extreme health hazards for the community" due to lack of state regulated services.
He said his business is art and his establishment will be by appointment only with a gallery atmosphere.