Springfield plans changes for tattoo zoning codes

Law director says tattoo shops shouldn’t be omitted from personal services designation.

A tattoo shop’s relocation is expected to lead to changes to the city’s planning and zoning codes that will allow more flexibility for where body art establishments can be located in Springfield.

Thin Lizzy’s Tattooing moved to 2210 E. Main St. from its previous location at 11 N. Belmont Ave., despite Springfield’s community commercial zoning classification not permitting tattoo shops. City officials will not enforce those zoning codes, and the city will seek code changes for tattoo parlors next month.

Springfield Law Director Jerry Strozdas felt it would be unconstitutional to treat tattoo parlors differently than other personal services establishments, including barber shops, beauty parlors and nail salons. He told city staff he didn’t feel they were “on solid ground” enforcing zoning code that treated tattoo shops differently.

“There is some pretty clear case law that wearing tattoos and tattooing is all activity protected by the First Amendment as expressive conduct,” Strozdas said. “It’s not appropriate to treat those establishments differently from other personal services establishments from a zoning code perspective.”

Elizabeth Nelson, the owner of Thin Lizzy’s, said the new location opened Feb. 7.

She’s happy with the relocation, as well as the possible code changes.

“I’m in hopes they get squared away where they want to be,” Nelson said. “If you’re thinking of it in terms of today’s world versus when some of the codes were put in place, it makes perfect sense that they would want to look at that again.”

The city is set to appear before the CEDA Regional planning board on March 6, as well as the City Planning Board on March 10, in order to have the codes amended to include tattoo shops as part of community commercial districts. If approved by those boards, the city commission will likely vote on the code changes in mid-April.

The city planned to discuss the issue at both CEDA and City Planning Board last September, but the issues were pulled from the agendas to allow more time for city officials to examine the issue.

Thin Lizzy’s old location was zoned CC-2, the same as new location on East Main.

Central Business District, or CB-10, and Intensive Commercial District, or CI-1, are currently the only two zoning classifications in which tattoo parlors can open. The CI-1 designation includes language that states tattoo parlors cannot be located within 100 feet of a school, church or residential district. The codes for tattoo parlors were changed in the late 1990s before the city’s codes were overhauled in 2001.

There are currently five licensed body art establishments in Clark County, including Thin Lizzy’s, according to Larry Shaffer of the Clark County Combined Health District, including:

• Springfield Ink, 562 East Main St., Springfield.

• Artistic Delirium Tattoos and Body Piercings, 841 E. Main St., Springfield.

• Artistic Visions Tattoos, 1530 Mitchell Blvd, Springfield.

• Natural Look Hair Salon, 2300 East Main St., Springfield.

Shaffer said the term body art now includes piercings and permanent cosmetics.

According to a 2012 Harris Interactive poll, one in five Americans have at least one tattoo.

Matthew Webb, the owner of Artistic Visions, which opened last month, said the zoning changes are positive as long as the health district keeps up with regulations.

“I don’t see it being a problem, but they have to keep up with monitoring the shops, making sure things are done properly,” Webb said. “Zoning doesn’t have a whole lot to do with that part.”

Webb, a Kenton Ridge grad who has worked at tattoo parlors in both Dayton and Columbus, said he tried to open up a tattoo parlor in Springfield years ago but could not find a location that was properly zoned.

“I can’t find any buildings available that could work for my business,” Webb said.

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