WARSAW — In a lengthy Warsaw Board of Zoning Appeals meeting Monday night, Aug. 26, the board gave approvals to two tattoo studios looking to open their businesses in the area.
The first case on the agenda was a variance request by Nathan Prieshoff to allow a tattoo parlor in a C-4 zoning district at 112 E. Center Street, Warsaw.
Senior City Planner Justin Taylor introduced the case by stating, “The argument regarding negative effects of tattoo parlors is predicated on the idea that this type of use has a detrimental impact on adjacent property values. This idea has not been documented in any substantiated way. As tattoos have become more mainstream, tattoo parlors have also become more commonplace. A tattoo parlor in an urban center will have no more of a negative impact than a retail store or a restaurant.”
Prieshoff, who goes by the artist pen name of Nathan Underneath, presented arguments in support of his request to the board, including a petition signed by about 120 business owners and residents. He also provided photographs of the improvements he’s made to the store’s interior and images depicting the quality of his tattoo work.
“Being a part of downtown and showcasing all the various types of artwork that I do is my way of submerging myself in the community to show the passion, tenacity, hard work and long hours that I dedicate in order to provide people with a positive experience,” said Prieshoff.
Board members asked Prieshoff to address concerns that City Council member Cindy Dobbins stated in a letter to the board. In the letter, Dobbins wrote, “I question whether it is wise to open ‘Pandora’s Box’ re: tattoo parlors in the C-4. It would seem that once an exception has been made, it would be hard to deny future requests.”
In response, Preishoff said, “The concerns to me, are a moot point, they do not apply. This meeting — this variance — as you stated, is a specific usage for a specific property.”
City Attorney Scott Reust agreed with his reply, stating that by statue, what the BZA approves or denies does not set a precedent for future cases.
At that point, Board member Rick Keevan asked if a condition could be placed on the approval saying that only Prisehoff was given approval for the variance. It was explained that the variance approval runs with the business, not a person. So if the business moved or went out of business, the variance would be lost. But, if the business was passed on to a new owner, the variance would remain.
City Councilman Mike Klondaris, whose family owns the building, also spoke on behalf of the variance request. He told the board that he was impressed enough with Prieshoff to let him rent the building which has been owned by his family for around 70 years. He also brought up the point that he believes there are about 12 empty storefronts in the downtown and that the city should welcome diverse businesses in order to fill the vacancies.
Paula Bowman, the owner of Latte Lounge and coordinator of First Fridays, spoke against the request. “I just ask that you look at the C-4 plan and see what’s going on, does it meet the plan?” asked Bowman. “Is this going to be a detriment? I don’t know. Is this going to be a draw? I don’t know.”
The board also received two letters of opposition in addition to Dobbins’ letter. Those were from James Breading, of Service Electric, and Matthew Shively, of Center Title Services.
The board ultimately voted to approve the variance request. Keevan voted against the motion, stating that he wasn’t voting against the business but wished the board had the ability to place more conditions on the approval.
The second case involving tattoo studios was a special exception request made by Michael Vest to allow a tattoo parlor in a C-2 zoning district at 600 E. Winona Ave., Warsaw.
This case involved a lot less discussion. Nobody spoke against the request.
The city’s municipal code states that tattoo parlors are permitted within C-2 districts as long as they are located a minimum of 400 feet from any church. New Horizon Community Church is located nearby at 601 E. Smith St., but church officials submitted a letter of support for the case. The letter stated, “We have met with Mr. Michael Vest. We fully support the exemption and have no concern or reservation regarding Mr. Vest’s plans or purposes.”
With little discussion from the board, they unanimously voted to approve this request.
In other news, the board also:
- Approved a variance request for Stonehill Homes at 2312 Highlander Drive, Warsaw, to allow an 8″ variance on a 25′ setback.
- Approved a variance request for N & J Auto Sales at 315 E. Market St., Warsaw, to allow for a 14′ sign in a C-4 zoning district.