Troutman's aldermen have decided to allow tattoo parlors in the town's highway business zoning district.
By a 4-0 vote at its April meeting, the town board rejected a number of limitations suggested by the planning board that would have severely limited where and how the parlors could be located.
Previously, no regulations specifically addressed where tattoo parlors could be located in Troutman.
The planning board had approved placing them in the town's highway business zone, but with several restrictions: All tattooing or body-piercing must take place in an area that could not be viewed by other customers; tattoo parlors must be at least 250 feet from schools or churches; and they could have frontage on major roads.
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The board rejected all those limitations.
"Our consensus is that we should allow these facilities in the highway business districts without any special restrictions," said Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Spath.
The move to regulate tattoo parlors was an outgrowth from the opening of the town's first such facility, Lime Lights, on Main Street in the central business district. Since the town code was silent on tattoo parlors earlier this year when Lime Lights opened, a permit was issued under a provision of the code that regulates "service use."
The aldermen, however, sought more clarification for any future applicants.
Owner Tracy Garland, who expanded her hair salon to include the tattoo services, spoke to the board before their vote, seeking to assure aldermen that tattoo parlors are a legitimate and growing business: "Our salon is a form of art. We are in the business of making people feel better."
Garland said she has a long waiting list of customers and that her success will help bring other businesses to Troutman.
Town Planner Erika Martin said Garland's tattoo parlor is legal because she got her permit before the new rules were adopted.
"The tattoo business can continue to operate, but cannot expand past the current footprint of Lime Lights," Martin said.
"Tracy seems to think her business may grow to include the empty space next door," Martin said. "Her hair business could expand to that portion, but not the tattoo parlor."
As tattoos continue to gain acceptance nationwide, the parlors have begun moving to central business areas, suburban malls and even exclusive boutiques. Individual municipalities have addressed location issues differently.
For example, tattoo parlors are permitted in all of Statesville's business districts.
High Point, however, allows them only in the central business district and only with additional restrictions.