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Council Approves New Tattoo Shop Permit At Pleasure Island Plaza

The Carolina Beach Town Council approved a controversial permit for a new tattoo studio to open in the former home to Island Pet Shop in the Pleasure Island Plaza on North Lake Park Blvd.

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PLEASURE ISLAND - The Carolina Beach Town Council held a public hearing on the controversial issue of permitting a new tattoo shop in the Pleasure Island Plaza on North Lake Park Blvd at their April 9th, meeting.
The Council voted three to two with Mayor Bob Lewis and Council members Steve Shuttleworth and Jody Smith voting in favor of the permit. Council members Sarah Friede and Tom Bridges voted against permitting the tattoo shop.
The applicant, Dixon Broadfoot, requested a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for a tattoo studio called Pleasure Island Tattoo. Tattoo Studios are permissible under a CUP in the Highway Business (HB) zoning district following a zoning amendment approved by the Council earlier this year.
The proposed tattoo studio will be located in an existing 960 sq. ft. unit. The prior use was Island Pet Shop.
The plaza was built in 1984 as a 14 unit condo commercial structure. The applicant proposes tattooing, permanent cosmetic make-up, and an art gallery. The proposed hours of operation are 11:00am -9:00pm. The applicant does not propose any additions or changes to the existing building. 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 in the Highway Business (HB) district. New studios have to obtain a Conditional Use Permit and meet certain conditions including hours of operation from 8AM to 9PM and a certain distance from residential districts, a church or school, public parks, playgrounds, libraries and other tattoo studio establishments. Those permits are reviewed by the Planning and Zoning Commission and then by the Town Council who ultimately approves or denies issuing a permit. Body piercing was originally requested as an allowable use along with Tattoo Studios, but the Council did not vote to permit piercing.
The Carolina Beach Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously recommended Town Council approve of the request during their Thursday February 14, meeting. The Commission heard from other owners in the Plaza that if permitted a tattoo parlor would cause the Homeowner's Association to lose discounts on their insurance thus costing them more money each year. The Commission was not satisfied with the level of evidence provided and recommended the Council approve of the request.
At the Council's April 9th meeting, a lengthy public hearing was held with attorney's for the applicant and the opposing business owners in the Plaza presenting evidence, expert witnesses and arguing over what evidence was competent, material and substantial.
The Council heard testimony regarding the Homeowner's Association losing discounts on their insurance thus costing them more money each year.
The claim by the opponents was that insurance companies view tattoo parlors as a higher risk. Also, that national companies often dictate to their landlords that such businesses will not be permitted in the same center. Previously it was stated that if permitted the adjacent major-name tax preparation service would have to move due to franchise requirements.
The overall arguement was that a tattoo studio was not in harmony with other retail and office type businesses in the Plaza.
Council member Sarah Friede made a motion to deny the permit request stating, "The use if developed according to the plan as submitted and approved will not be in harmony with the area in which it is to be located. Based on that I would make a motion that the conditional use permit application be denied."
Mayor Bob Lewis said he took issue with quoting the Land Use Plan as requiring businesses to be "family-oriented" because that's a vague concept. He said a massage parlor could be viewed as not family-friendly because kids don't get massages.
Councilman Steve Shuttleworth said he disagreed with Friede's motion saying, "I have a hard time saying you can have a nail salon but you can't have a tattoo parlor."
Lewis said, "If the two parties could come together with some type of negotiation... to make this all work but it seems like that's not going to happen."
Council member Jody Smith explained, "I don't see Mr. Broadfoot's store or shop, studio, being a negative impact on that plaza. I feel like he's meeting the conditions."
Councilman Tom Bridges said, "I don't know what evidence we can weigh in on but there is a lot of evidence that you can look at that says its going to affect the other occupants of the shopping center. And it’s going to cost them and that's one of the things we are supposed to look at. How's that going to affect them? If it’s going to negatively affect the adjoining businesses and it certainly seems that’s a strong possibility that’s going to happen in my opinion."
There was testimony presented that the HOA had met with the applicant and said he could open up in the Plaza as long as he didn't use the word tattoo on the sign. He could call it an art studio and still tattoo clients, but not advertise it on a sign on the building.
Ken Horne of Pleasure Island Insurance said they also said they would not oppose the permit if that agreement was adhered to but that some time later they received a letter from the applicants attorney to the contrary and that's one reason why they are opposing the permit.
Council member Smith said, "Mr. Broadfoot is well respected already in his industry and that could bring a demographic here positively to the Pleasure Island Plaza and no one will know until he's open. It’s unfortunate that there's a lot of bad blood started with the potential neighbors. That's my biggest concern."
Councilman Shuttleworth said if the decision could be delayed for 30 days that would allow both parties to get together to try again to work out their differences. He said if approved that night, it would certainly lead to lawsuits between both parties.
The Council was advised by their attorney they could continue the hearing but its not advisable because no communication could take place between Council and other parties and only consider evidence heard during the hearing. The public hearing had already been officially closed. If denied, the applicant would have to wait for a year  to reapply unless they returned with a proposal that was a major change from the current application. On the issue of leaving the word tattoo off the sign, Shuttleworth said, "If their argument and complaint is its going to be classified differently and our insurance is going to go up you can't tell me they are actually going to go out and knowingly defraud their insurance carrier knowing the guys going to have a tattoo shop. They're just not going to put it on a sign and have a wink and a nod and look the other direction." The Council voted on Friede's motion to deny. It failed three to two with Bridges and Friede voting in favor. Bridges made a motion to deny because it will injure the value of adjoining properties. That motion also failed three to two.
Council voted three to two with Lewis, Shuttleworth and Jody Smith voting in favor of the permit. Council members Sarah Friede and Tom Bridges voted against permitting the tattoo shop.