Waynesville Lifts Accidental Ban on Tattoo Parlors

Waynesville’s town council lifted a ban that prohibited new tattoo parlors from Waynesville. This ban had been in place for more than ten years.

A clause prohibiting new tattoo studios was probably accidentally inserted into an old town land-use plan rewrite 12 years ago. The three-word phrase “excluding tattoo parlors” was tacked on in parentheses to a line about beauty parlors, barber shops, and tanning salons.

While new tattoo studios have certainly opened in Waynesville since then, the phrase wasn’t discovered until recently when Greg Au, a local tattoo artist wanting to open a new location in downtown Waynesville, applied for a permit.

Aldermen were interested in how the phrase got into the land-use planning when the issue was brought up to the town board last Wednesday.

“There was not a great beating on the podium to outlaw tattoo parlors,” Town Planner Byron Hickox said. “My best guess is it was accidentally inserted as part of a cut-and-paste from another ordinance. It was a large document to review and nobody noticed it and nobody brought it up.”

Chuck Dickson, an Alderman, noted that half of all people aged 40 and under have a tattoo.

“They used to be affiliated with criminals and gangs and deviant behavior, but that’s no longer the case. They are now just seen as a form of personal expression,” Dickson said.

Alderman Anthony Sutton fessed up to having a tattoo, but a show-and-tell wasn’t forthcoming.

“The way people perceive tattoos has changed over the years,” Sutton said.

No one else volunteered whether they had a tattoo, although Alderwoman Julia Freeman said she probably knew more people who had one than didn’t.

“They are part of the culture now, let’s just put it that way,” Mayor Gary Caldwell said.

Last month, the planning board voted 4-3 to lift the ban. There was some disagreement about whether tattoo parlors should only be allowed in certain areas of the town. Hickox claimed that the approach to tattoo parlors located in other towns is not consistent.

“I took a look at quite a few local governments, from large cities to towns smaller than Waynesville, and saw a broad approach running from outright prohibition to a laissez-faire approach allowing them in essentially every district,” Hickox said.

Canton lifted an old ban on tattoo parlors.

Dickson said he consulted with the police chief on whether tattoo studios are a source of problems, and the answer was ‘no.’

The town board unanimously approved removing the clause and allowing tattoo shops in any commercial area where barbershops and hair salons are allowed. Au, who was at the town board meeting as an audience member, thanked the board for making this happen.

“Tattoo art is a growing art form and we want to be part of the Waynesville business community,” Au said in his zoning application.

Hickox, who explained that tattoo studios are politically correct terminology, was a great moment.

“The word ‘parlor’ has sort of fallen out of favor. The tattoo studio is the en vogue way to describe a tattoo establishment,” he said.

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