Council set to limit tattoo sites

Westminster may ban businesses downtown


December 31, 2006|By Laura McCandlish | Laura McCandlish,SUN REPORTER

As the Westminster City Council moves closer to banning tattoo parlors from the downtown business district, local practitioners of skin decoration plan to bring Carroll County's first tattoo convention to Westminster late next month.

The council could pass the ban before then. City officials said a zoning amendment should be introduced Jan. 8 and go to public hearing Jan. 22, when it could come up for a vote.

Tattoo parlors would still be permitted in the industrialized business zone along Route 140, and an existing tattoo business downtown would be allowed to stay open, Mayor Thomas K. Ferguson said. But such businesses run counter to the city's efforts to retain and revitalize the character of its aging Main Street, city officials have suggested.

"It's not as if they can't exist anywhere in the city," Ferguson said. "We think it's appropriate in some areas and not in others."

Tattoo artists believe their work is stigmatized because the state Health Department doesn't license their parlors, said Polly Hewitt, who has encountered obstacles in trying to reopen her Tattooed Angel business in downtown Westminster. She previously ran Tattooed Angel on Route 27 near Westminster's Town Mall for six years, until she closed in August.

Meanwhile, Hewitt said she is bringing Maryland's first tattoo expo to Martin's Westminster banquet hall Jan. 27 and 28 to promote tattooing as an art form and to push for more stringent state regulations.

At least two jurisdictions have enacted local laws governing tattooing. The Health Departments in Allegany and Worcester counties do license tattoo establishments, and, in Worcester's case, only a doctor can apply a tattoo, said Brenda Roop, the nurse in charge of infection control for the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

"The reason tattooists and piercers are not licensed is that the General Assembly has not given us the authority to do so," Roop said. "Tattooists and piercers would like guidelines because it keeps the riffraff out. [The riffraff] makes them look bad and gives a bad taste to the whole trade."

But short of a concerted grass-roots effort, Roop said, the General Assembly would likely avoid getting behind the issue. Westminster has denied Hewitt's Tattooed Angel a permit to relocate to the space she leased in the second story of a building in a residential area.

In late August, Westminster officials had told Hewitt that the property, on 58 Pennsylvania Ave., was in a business zone that permitted tattoo parlors. But the state assessment maps incorrectly labeled the site, which was never intended for commercial use, Ferguson said.

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