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Planning director outlines restrictions for tattoo parlors

Date: 6/26/2012

June 25, 2012

By Chris Maza

EAST LONGMEADOW — The Planning Board continued its discussions regarding the creation of language in the zoning by-laws that would allow body art establishments to operate in town.

Planning Board Chair George Kingston stressed that the Planning Board would not have any involvement in the licensing of such establishments — that responsibility lies with the Board of Selectmen operating as the Board of Health — but rather would be charged with determining where body art businesses such as tattoo parlors could be located.

Planning Director Robyn Macdonald presented the board with early language she and Planning Board Chair George Kingston developed that outlined the definitions associated with body art establishments and laid out proposed restrictions on their placement.

Most notable among the recommendations was one that would restrict body art businesses to areas of the business district that are not within 1,000 feet of a public school or a church.

That recommendation would prevent the existence of tattoo and other body art establishments in the center of town and restrict their operation to North Main Street from Dewey Avenue to the Springfield border.

"People have been calling the office and emailing me with concerns from the public schools, churches and private citizens," Macdonald said, adding that she considered including parks on the list, but found that move would be too restrictive.

"If we eliminated parks as well, it would eliminate North Main Street as well," she explained.

Kingston stated that body art businesses could be a problem if they are on walking routes to schools, specifically the high school, despite the fact that Massachusetts General Law prohibits minors from receiving tattoos without parental consent.

"We want to do this in a way that is legal and constitutional but also protects residents and the feel of the center of town," Kingston said.

He voiced opposition to requiring a special permit for such establishments. "I don't think special permits are necessary or desirable given that licensing is being done through the Board of Health," Kingston said.

Planning Board member Ralph Page said the board should consider adding a special permit so as to give residents and abutters a chance to voice their opinions.

However, Kingston said he did not believe special permit hearings would be productive.

"I would imagine most of the concerns would be licensing concerns and we don't issue licenses here," he said.

Kingston went on to say that the Planning Board could recommend that the Board of Selectmen host public licensing hearings at which residents could voice concerns.

The board made no vote and the issue will be discussed again at future meetings.

The need for such a by-law change was brought to light when Melvin Lockett, owner of Fabulous Ink tattoo parlors, approached the Planning Board at its May 22 meeting about opening an East Longmeadow location to compliment his two Springfield parlors.

In addition to the by-law changes, the Board of Selectmen are working with Town Counsel James Donahue on the necessary licensing regulations by using draft regulations created by the state.

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