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Small Businesses Need To Be Given A Chance To Succeed

We don’t know whether or not it is a good idea to put a tattoo studio on Fourth Street in downtown Jamestown.

There may be a good reason why the city’s zoning code is written to only permit tattoo businesses in manufacturing areas. There may be a good case to be made for rewriting that section of the zoning code. That’s a discussion for another day.

We do, however, take issue with a proposed business facing an unfair playing field while trying to open up in Jamestown.

Last week, the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals denied a use variance for a tattoo studio proposed by Denise de la Cerda, who wanted to open an appointment-only tattoo studio and a fine arts studio at 14 E. Fourth St. The tattoo business would have been located above Maurice’s Beauty Salon and near Labrynth Press Co. and the Brazil Craft Beer and Wine Lounge.

One person spoke against the petition, saying a tattoo parlor would make the neighborhood less attractive. We note, for the benefit of discussion, that vacant or underutilized buildings don’t exactly make a neighborhood more attractive, either, and both hurt the vitality of the downtown business district that should be more of a a hub of activity and less like a law library after 5 p.m.

The more pressing issue is the inability to get more than a bare quorum to attend Zoning Board of Appeals meetings. The board has seven members and needs four votes to approve a use variance. The vote on de la Cerda’s tattoo parlor was 2-2, meaning the variance was turned down.

It would be interesting to see what the results would be with a full compliment of board members casting a vote. Would it have been 5-2 or 4-3 for or against? We will never know, and it’s frankly a shame that someone who wants to put her money and talents into downtown Jamestown won’t receive the courtesy of a full vote of the Zoning Board of Appeals.

A similar instance, ironically also involving a tattoo parlor, happened within the past couple of years. Our desire now is the same as our desire then — if a bare quorum is split on a proposal, then table it until the full board can be convened. The results may not change, but at least de la Cerda would know that it wasn’t just voted down on a technicality.

The Zoning Board of Appeals’ split decisions on these matters is literally the least the city can do to someone who wants to open a new business. Small business owners deserve better. The Zoning Board of Appeals’ empowering section of the city code should be rewritten to give small businesses every chance to open rather than allowing technicalities to slam the door shut in their face.

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