Hearing set on tattoo ordinance

Some say putting parlors downtown would stain the image of historic Main Street

January 14, 2007|By David P. Greisman | David P. Greisman,Special to The Sun

If the Westminster City Council approves a zoning ordinance after a public hearing on Jan. 22, the signature of Mayor Thomas K. Ferguson will keep ink from flowing in certain sections of the city.

By keeping tattoo parlors from setting up on Main Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, city officials said they are seeking to retain a more traditional downtown Westminster and limit businesses in nearby residential areas to certain categories.

"The vision [for downtown] is with primarily merchants in the retail business, shops that offer a unique shopping experience that you might not be able to experience, for example, in a mall or shopping center," Ferguson said.

The ordinance, introduced last week, includes specific language that would prevent tattoo parlors in areas defined as central commerce, downtown business and central business zones. The ordinance also would ensure that no special exceptions could be made for tattoo parlors.

If council members approve the ordinance, new tattoo parlors would only be able to open in business zones, none of which exists on Main Street or Pennsylvania Avenue.

The ordinance would not affect shops opened before the law, such as Matteo Ink, a tattoo parlor in the first block of Winters St., which opened in April in a central business zone.

Keeping tattoo parlors away would give Main Street "more the look of what Westminster was in its heyday downtown 40 or 50 years ago," Ferguson said.

Ferguson referred to Pennsylvania Avenue and West Main Street, beyond Pennsylvania Avenue, as transitional areas that are predominantly residential but have some businesses.

"You have to be very, very careful with permitted uses when you're in that kind of transitional area, simply because it does butt up against a residential zone," Ferguson said.

Residents had similar concerns, said city Councilman Robert Wack."We're responding to citizen input for how they want Main Street and Pennsylvania Avenue to look," he said.

Rebekah Orenstein, a former city councilwoman who has lived on Pennsylvania Avenue for 20 years, said that many residents are disturbed by a perceived encroachment of businesses into the area.

"There's been an attempt to commercialize our neighborhoods, and we've had to stand strong," she said. "We feel like we're this big, shiny red apple on Pennsylvania Avenue and West Main, and commercial people want to take a bite out of us."

The city government recently began an effort to recruit unique businesses to Westminster, said Stan Ruchlewicz, administrator of economic development.

"I send invitations out to people whose shops are very cool," he said. "Our goal is to perhaps encourage businesses to set up a second operation in downtown Westminster.

"When you've got 1,600 college kids up the street, you need to start looking at some of the products that they might buy, because they do have disposable income," he said.

The public hearing will be at 7 p.m. Jan. 22 at the Westminster Fire Engine and Hose Co., 28 John St. Free parking is available.

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