After hearing passionate pleas from residents, the Board of Supervisors sent the case of a proposed tattoo parlor on Iron Bridge Road back to the Planning Commission.
Eric C. Waite and Eddie J. Espada have requested a conditional use permit allowing a tattoo and body piercing parlor in a shopping center on Iron Bridge Road north of Ironbridge Parkway. The Planning Commission approved the request in a 4-0 vote, with one member absent, at its Oct. 19 meeting. No one spoke against the proposal at that meeting.
At the supervisors’ meeting, Waite said he had signatures of support from other business owners in the area. They have been in the building for three months operating a tattoo supply shop for other artists, he said.
“We understand some residents and members of the board may have some concerns because they are not properly educated on how the tattoo business runs and is operated,” Waite said. The shop will have a zero-tolerance policy for alcohol, drugs and gang members, he said, and its artists won’t tattoo hateful or racist messages.
During the public hearing, Vincent Ferraiolo, a Thomas Dale High School teacher who owns an exotic pet store in the shopping center, said he’d spent time with the applicants and they were “good guys.”
“The tattoo industry is different now,” he said. “It’s not Easy Rider.”
Phil Lohr, a resident of Wellington Farms, said he hadn’t talked to anyone in his area that supported the business.
“I think it’s just an inappropriate business for this particular area. For another particular area of the county, maybe so,” he said.
Judy Stoneman said seven neighborhood associations found out about the proposed tattoo parlor on the Sunday before the supervisors meeting.
“We had not received any word,” she said. “We had not been notified. We did not get a vote. And we still so far haven’t had a vote. … We are in a situation down there where we are fighting something, are trying to hold on to a little, bitty community called Chester.”
The concern is, if a tattoo parlor is wanted, “why does it have to be in a residential section in a little, bitty community,” she said. The use is not acceptable in the area, she said.
“So, I ask that you think about who you’re working for,” she said. “We’re the insiders and really do we need outsiders determining how we’re going to live in our community?”
Otto Graff, a tattoo artist, said Virginia has some of the toughest regulations on tattooing in the country. Tattoo artists are not “fly- by-night people” who just pick up machines and draw on people, he said.
“We are true artists that spend years learning our trade and applying our trade,” he said. “And we’re relegated to the industrial parts of town.” There are “no residents that can see anything,” he said, as the proposed parlor location is in a shopping center.
“I just would like for you all to approve this shop and give us a chance to show that we are just good people like everybody else,” he said.
Jack McHale, a resident of Lakewood Farms, said one thing that shocked him about the case was that the process seemed flawed.
“There was no notice given that would cause the community, if they had concerns, to come to the Planning Commission, which is a great venue for talking through what the issues are,” he said. “I think that it ought to go back to the Planning Commission.”
Dale Supervisor Jim Holland said he wasn’t inclined to support or deny this type of case, but the community should be able to comment. He said he thought the case should be remanded to the commission.
Bermuda Supervisor Dorothy Jaeckle said she agreed that the case should be remanded to the Planning Commission, where it could be fully vetted by the neighborhoods in that area. Supervisors Chairman Dan Gecker said he thought it was somewhat ironic “that a board that proclaims itself to be so pro-business is being so anti a certain business.” When the first tattoo parlor came up in the county several years ago, the county did a lot of research.
“The end of the day answer to that was that every Commonwealth’s Attorney in every jurisdiction in Virginia that had a tattoo parlor all said that there was no incidence of crime associated with the parlors,” he said. “I think we’re working on archaic stereotypes here,” though he did appreciate the idea that “this is not something that ought to be rammed down people’s throats.”
The panel voted unanimously to remand the case to the Planning Commission.