Mound city council members on March 9 postponed making a decision on whether to accept a future tattoo studio for the western vacancy at Mound’s Lost Lake complex.
The delay was made largely as a courtesy to the Lost Lake Villas Homeowners Association whose president, Doug Williams, said “strenuously” opposes the addition of a tattoo parlor “in our front yard” and asked for the deferral in order to have more time to prepare a written list of reasons for the board’s opposition. The Villas stand directly behind and to the west of the retail building, which currently houses Caribou Coffee and a drycleaner’s.
The planning commission had last month unanimously recommended council approve tattoo artist Dane Vocelka’s request that his business be considered “similar use” to what is already specifically listed as permissible for that location.
The building, usually referred to as the Lost Lake building, is part of a larger Planned Unit Development (PUD) that the city created during its redevelopment push in the early 2000s. A “similar use” designation would allow Vocelka to operate his studio there without having to request a zoning amendment.
Vocelka had submitted his application at the end of last year to have his proposed “Harbor Tattoo” fall into the category of retail sales and services. Vocelka said he also intends to sell artwork and apparel and provide some fishing guide services from his studio.
“I’m just an artist. I like to fish. I create tattoo work,” said Vocelka, speaking to council members. Vocelka said he also understood that people might have their reservations and that he knows his industry carries a certain stigma.
“It’s such a broad, diverse topic that has many stereotypes and different views and opinions,” he said. “If I can keep something professional and very tasteful from an exterior, I would just like your consideration and [your] giving me an opportunity to do that.”
No additional exterior work was included in Vocelka’s application to the city, which outlines an ages 18-plus tattoo studio with a contemporary interior of brick and dark wood.
But the HOA’s Williams argued that Vocelka’s studio was not a retail service comparable to the existing Caribou or even the CBO oil shop that was most recently in the vacancy, but that as an 18-plus studio it would fall under the category of adult establishments.
The Mound city code does list “adult body painting studio” under its list of adult establishments. The Lost Lake PUD also allows for adult establishments as permitted uses, and Vocelka had included that designation as an option in the letter he submitted to the city’s community development director.
But that designation could bring the studio in conflict with a different part of Mound’s code. Adult establishments are not permitted within 200 feet of a residential building. According to Williams, the HOA president, the nearest tenant of the Villas lives just 83 feet from the proposed studio location.
Williams said he was not opposed to Vocelka opening a tattoo business in Mound but that he was opposed to his locating it “in our front yard” and argued that a studio there would “substantially reduce the values of our properties.”
Rejection of a similar use determination would not necessarily be the death knell for Vocelka’s “Harbor Tattoo” on Lost Lake, but it would require him to seek a zoning amendment for its inclusion in the PUD as a specifically permitted use.
Council members were undecided March 9 due to the opposition given by Williams and the HOW, although some made their frustration felt that Williams had not come to the night’s session prepared after having since the Feb. 22 planning commission meeting to draw up their opposition. “I’m a little put off,” said council member Phil Velsor.
Others were split on where they stood with the pitch itself.
“It’s ‘tattoo versus no tattoo’ and sometimes it’s ‘young versus old’ or ‘this way versus that way of thinking,’ and people are just probably never going to see eye to eye on that,” said council member Jason Holt. Holt, who is council’s liaison to the planning commission, said he was impressed with Vocelka’s pitch Feb. 22 but that he is still “half and half” on how he feels.
Council is expected to take up the topic again at its regular session March 23.