(Chris Blonk on Unsplash) Chris Blonk, Unsplash
Palm Coast Planning Board unanimously approved Wednesday the Palm Coast Planning Board. Particular exception application Supreme Custom Tattoo is establishing a new shop on the 2nd floor of Tony Amaral’s Aqua Investments’ commercial building located at 29 Old Kings Road.
This 15-minute hearing was not particularly noteworthy. Kristen Fuentes is a new Palm Coast resident from Colorado, and her husband, Fabian Fuentes, is a Colorado native. The couple described their new business venture as “family-oriented.”
The fact that these businesses must seek a notable exception under Palm Coast’s ordinance code to be located in specific commercial areas is a sign that there are still stigmas and discrimination against tattoo studios. Some landlords–not all–profit from such exceptions to deny leases to prospective tattoo studios.
That’s why the Planning Board hearing was necessary, as was the requirement for the owner to apply for the notable exception–as neither would have been had it has been another kind of “personal care service,” a landscaping business, a funeral home, a pet store, a florist or a gas and convenience store. As landlords often deny leases, the planning board had the right to reject this request.
Bob Cuff is an attorney and former Palm Coast City Council Member. He said, “I think the classification of tattoo shops is based upon an outdated stereotype that dates back to an era when local governments believed only sailors on drunken shore leaves and motorcycle gangs patronized such businesses.” “This lead to a further assumption that the government had to strictly control where the studios were located to keep ‘undesirables’ away from normal taxpayers and ‘legitimate’ businesses. With people of all ages and from all social classes choosing to get tattoos in today’s society, I cannot see the point of particular restrictions unless planning professionals can produce credible statistics that show a higher crime rate/police call to tattoo studios than other personal service businesses.
Michael Biller of Devoted Tattoo Studio in Palm Coast Parkway says the stereotypes persist but are not the views of the city. Biller stated, “It might be an obstacle, but it’s mostly the freaking plaza owner.” Biller recalls applying to the city for a special exemption a decade earlier when he had just turned 30. He was faced with a large group of much older officials. He said: “I was shivering; I thought I would be told no. But they gave me astonishing yesses across the board.” He credited city staff, saying, “The city will do it because they want new businesses to thrive.”
The landlords have been less accommodating. Biller wants to expand into new shopping plazas in Volusia County, St. Johns, and along State Road 100. But landlords are repeatedly turning him down. They use zoning regulations as an excuse. Biller tells the landlords he has a particular case, but they reject him anyway. For example, tattoo studios are not allowed in a Publix-owned shopping center. “It’s discrimination–they say we don’t allow tattoo shops,” Biller said.
Biller said, “I think there’s a stigma still attached to tattoos being done mainly by bikers or inmates; it’s still frowned upon,” Biller spoke of old assumptions that no longer hold. “They don’t realize that tattooing is a multi-billion dollar industry and benefits your plaza.” Devoted Tattoo Studio, for example, is a great anchor for the strip. MarketResearch.com states that tattooing is a $1.35-billion industry. This does not include body piercing or “the burgeoning tattoo removal market,” which adds up to $3 billion.
Tattoo studios have biomedical waste to dispose of, and they must have a designated area for this. This may also explain the exception. Funeral parlors, however, also deal in biomedical materials, but they don’t need to follow the same rules, at least in the “Com 2” designation, such as Old Kings Road. Funeral parlors located in Com 1 are required to make a notable exception.
The area that Supreme Custom Tattoo plans to set up in an office building has already been zoned for general commercial. A large apartment complex is located across the street. I-95 can be found on the west side of the building, just past a line of trees. The complex also has a beauty parlor, a pawnshop, and a tobacco shop. There are also medical labs, photography studios, and Photoshop.
Estelle Lens, a city planner, told the planning board that the proposed tattoo studio would not conflict with or against the public interest because it will be situated within a commercial office building already occupied by several commercial tenants. The adjacent commercial corridor has a range of compatible uses, and the proposed tattoo studio will fit in well with the other businesses.
Is this the first tattoo shop in Palm Coast? a planning board member asked. Ray Tyner said it wasn’t. At least four studios are located in the city: Devoted, Elite Custom Overlord, and Sacred Moon.
“Why do we need a special exclusion?” The board member then asked, “Why is there a need for a special exception?” Tyner described what is in the city’s Land Development Code but did not explain the reason for the exception requirement.
Tyner explained that a notable exception was a particular use that may require you to examine it in greater detail and perhaps add some special conditions to make the property or neighborhood more compatible. That question was not asked or answered as to why a tattoo studio must be more consistent with its surroundings.
A board member inquired about the regulatory authority that oversees these businesses. Another board member replied that it is the Department of Business and Professional Regulations. It’s not. The Department of Health issues licenses to tattoo studios through the county health department. A board member asked about age restrictions. Children as young as 16 can get tattoos if their parenthesis parents or guardians accompany them.
Supreme Custom Tattoo is already leased, as per city ordinance. (Biller’s suggestion to the City: Requiring a lease to be in hand before making a special allowance can make it difficult for businesses to secure a rental due to the discrimination they face.
“We moved to Palm Coast from Colorado two years back, or as my spouse calls it, ‘our little paradise,’ Fabien said to the planning committee. “I have been tattooing now for nearly 20 years. “My wife is also a local audiologist in Palm Coast.” The business will only be open by appointment, usually from 11 am to 7 pm, and an hour later at weekends. Fuentes described himself as “a traveling artist” who travels to different states to do his work. He has worked at Elite Custom Tattooing in his hometown for the last year. His wife is going to do the body piercing.
The application drew no objections–neither opposition nor public comment, in writing or person, though, curiously, when the required notice of the hearing was mailed to the Kings Colony Homeowners Association, it was refused.
Palm Coast’s Mayor wrote this afternoon, in response to a question regarding the notable exception required, that the code needed to be updated. SAP is a part of the process.”
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