WEST JEFERSON-The ink is beginning to dry in West Jefferson, as one local business owner is now a step closer to opening a tattoo and piercing business to meet what aldermen agree is a growing trend locally and nationally.
Mason Harris, owner of the Joy of Vaping, originally appeared before the town’s planning board recently as he began the tedious process of gaining a conditional use permit for a tattooing and piercing enterprise as zoning currently prevents such businesses in West Jefferson.
After narrowly gaining the planning board’s approval with a 6-5 decision, which came as a result of a technicality after an unswayed board member abstained from the vote without excusing himself therefore rendering his voice as the approving tiebreaker, Harris had to go before aldermen Monday night to clear another hurdle.
Harris appeared before the board for consideration of a zoning text amendment. Although aldermen voted 4-1 – with Alderman Calvin Green casting the dissenting vote – to approve the next phase of the request, his CUP is not a done deal. It must still pass the board of adjustments, which interestingly enough, is comprised of the same people that currently on the planning board.
A conditional use permit would allow the planning board to control this type of business in West Jefferson and on a case-by-case basis, as stated by the board in the meeting’s minutes from last month.
Aldermen spent several minutes Monday night discussing the pros and cons of such a business. They admitted that although they neither condone or express the art form as a unified board, they do not feel they should prevent Harris from expanding his business.
“Some of us went up to building and location where he will have his parlor and went through all the different things,” said Alderman John Reeves on his recent fact finding mission. “I think he’s going to run a very well organized place. I know some of them (the town) saying they voted one (a tattoo parlor) down before, but it was the location as the reason we voted it down. We didn’t want one in the downtown area. Personally, I won’t go up there and have a tattoo, but young people do that.”
Green, the dissenting vote, said he thinks it is unfair to allow Harris to open up such an enterprise when the board denied a similar operation that wanted to open a short distance from the proposed shop.
Alderman Stephen Shoemaker, who has three tattoos himself, noted the numerous restraints and regulations that will be applied to a tattoo business.
“I’ve been to only three tattoo parlors,” said Shoemaker. “Jefferson had one for a long time. I don’t think having a tattoo makes me any better or less of a man. If a man comes into town and follows the rules and regulations then i think he has the right to at least pursue that if we vote for it or not.”
Shoemaker also said he sympathized with the numerous people that came out in supposed opposition to a tattoo business.
“The tattoo thing seems to be popular now,” said Shoemaker. “I admit some get carried away with it, but that’s their choice. I don’t like to preach morality to someone on what they chose to do for themselves.”
Harris told the board he’s more than up to the challenge of meeting the town’s expectations of such a business. Unlike other tattoos parlors, Harris said his shop will use disposable needles that are trashed after each tattoo instead of a sterilization process that reuses needles. He also said anyone who enters his shop must be 18 years of age.
He said he wants to be scrutinized and examined closely in his operation. Harris said he wouldn’t want to do anything that would jeopardize his name or the town’s.
Reach Jesse Campbell at 336-846-7164.