Council Expresses Support for Tattoo Shops in Downtown Peekskill

The Peekskill Common Council is warming up to allowing tattoo shops in the downtown business district.

During a work session last week, council members remained supportive of lifting the 22-year ban on tattooing but also spoke favorably of including the C-2 (Central Commercial Business District) zone with certain regulations and restrictions.

“I do really believe we need to find a way to have it down in the artist district,” said Councilwoman Marybeth McGowan. “It is a business. It is an art.”

Councilwoman Kathleen Talbot said it was an issue of staying up-to-date in a modern world.

“We’re either going to have it or we’re not going to have it,” said Talbot. “Peekskill is not on the cutting edge of this thing. We’re at the tail. I think we’re really behind the curve on this. If we’re going to let it happen in Peekskill and lift the ban in Peekskill, then lift the ban.”

The city’s Planning Commission and Business Improvement District has favored allowing tattoo parlors in all commercial zones, and many business owners and residents have lobbied the council to do the same. The amendment to the zoning ordinance to open the door to tattoo shops by special permit that the council has been weighing only would allow them in limited commercial and industrial districts.

McGowan suggested if the council was concerned about an influx of tattoo shops overtaking the city it could limit the business to zones where they’re likely to attract clientele.

“By not allowing it in every piece of the city, it reduces the numbers (amount of shops) you can have in four-and-a-half square miles,” she said.

Only one artist, Patrick Conlon, who has been tattooing for 20 years, has made an application to open a tattoo parlor anywhere in Peekskill, and he has made it clear he prefers the downtown. More than 800 people who have signed petitions on his behalf support his venture.

Peekskill Mayor Mary Foster, who referenced a recent law approved by the Village of Tarrytown that restricts tattoo shops to one retail zoning district, said she wasn’t sold on the arguments that the business could only thrive in the downtown.

“We really have an odd fish here. We have an historic district and a downtown business district, who also restricts residences for artists,” she said. “Does one location versus another drive a higher end tattoo parlor or not? I hear people’s perceptions and emotional statements but I’m really looking for the evidence.”

The council spent a lot of time discussing the type of regulations and licensing requirements that should be placed on tattoo shops. Deputy Mayor Drew Claxton said New York City licenses the tattoo artist and not the business since its main focus is health and safety. Corporation Counsel Bernis Nelson said Peekskill couldn’t license artists since it doesn’t have a health department.

As an alternative, Nelson said it could be written into Peekskill’s code that any tattoo artist in the city must have a license from any municipality in the state that grants licenses. Foster said there should also be a requirement that the tattoo shops in Peekskill operate by appointment only.

“I don’t think it’s a frivolous requirement. I think that’s the type of establishment we’re trying to encourage in the city,” Foster said. “I don’t feel at all bad about how long the process has taken. All it has done is drive more discussion and conversation in the community. Since it’s a use that has been prohibited, people have to really decide they’re not going to protest a new business after it opens up. They have to get beyond that.”

The council is expected to discuss a revised proposed ordinance for tattoo shops at a work session later in the month.

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