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Williamsport proposes zoning changes

March 14, 2000|By ANDREA ROWLAND

WILLIAMSPORT - The Williamsport Town Council has taken a step toward barring new tattoo, body piercing and exotic dance establishments from opening in the town.

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The council on Monday unanimously voted to introduce a proposed text amendment to the town's zoning ordinance to prohibit such businesses from opening in the town.

The motion to amend the zoning ordinance text was made in response to residents' requests, said Williamsport Mayor John W. Slayman.

"We have to listen to our residents," he said. "That's who elects us."

Town residents and business owners interviewed Tuesday seemed divided on the issue.

Resident Leroy Myers, 74, called such establishments "rough," while a local business owner said banning such businesses is a strike against freedom of expression.

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"Who is the town of Williamsport to tell people they can't get a tattoo here? Are we going to take their freedom away," said James T. Jewell, 58, owner of Jewells & Jewells used appliance service and sales.

"If they say we can't have no tattoo parlors, next they say we can't have no more churches," Jewell said. "It's a control issue. It spreads."

"There should be more churches instead of tattoo parlors," said town resident Pinky Hoffman, 76.

Mr. Natural's Tattoo Studio and Ms. Natural's Body Piercing at 3 N. Conococheague St. are the only such establishments now in Williamsport. Under a grandfather clause, those businesses will not have to leave town, but must stay in their present location if the zoning text is changed, said Town Attorney Edward L. Kuczynski.

Those businesses will have a virtual monopoly in Williamsport, he said.

Yet tattoo shop owner Jared Jordan said Tuesday he opposes the proposal because he hopes one day to buy, not rent, a town building to house his business.

The tattoo and body piercing studios have a good reputation and are thriving, Jordan said.

"I'm bringing this town business," he said.

Tattoo and body piercing patron Chrissie Mongan, 29, said she likes having the businesses in her hometown.

"I come here all the time," she said.

"I'm broad-minded," said town resident Bernard Kefauver, 73. "As long as they don't tear the town apart I don't see any problem."

Monday's vote was the first step toward changing the zoning text, Slayman said.

The town's planning commission has 30 days from the date the motion was made to submit any comments to the Town Council, which will hold a public hearing on the matter, Kuczynski said.

The hearing is scheduled for April 10 at 6:45 p.m. at Town Hall.

The Town Council will consider testimony heard at the public hearing and approve or reject either all or part of the proposed revisions, Kuczynski said.

Some residents opposed banning new tattoo and body piercing establishments, but supported the prohibition on new exotic dance clubs.

"I've worked as a bouncer in a topless bar. They do tend to attract the wrong crowd," said Williamsport resident William Suddueth, 36. "But nothing's wrong with tattoos and piercings."

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