Nearly seven months after a Glade Spring tattoo shop was destroyed by a tornado that leveled many buildings around Interstate 81’s Exit 29, county officials have finally paved the way to allow the business to reopen.
The four members of the Washington County Board of Supervisors who were present at Tuesday’s regular meeting – Tom Taylor, Nicole Price, Phillip McCall and Odell Owens – voted to approve a zoning amendment to allow tattoo and body piercing businesses by special exception in the B2 business zone.
“Of course I’m happy,” said Carlton Davidson, owner of New Addixions Tattoo and Body Piercing, who has been operating the business in nearby Chilhowie since the tornado.
But, he said, “I feel it’s something that could have been brought forth sooner.”
He claims he learned only recently – after the tornado destroyed his business – that he’d been out of zoning compliance for the more than eight years he’s operated his shop at Exit 29.
The zoning issue became the chief hurdle to reopening.
During a public hearing Tuesday, Davidson spoke in favor of the zoning change necessary for him to re-establish his tattoo shop in its old location. No one spoke against it.
“I just would like to see that approved so someone like me could go on making a living doing something like this,” said Davidson, a grandfather of six who says he raised his family – and sent a daughter to medical school – with income from his tattoo business.
The amendment was requested by building owner Bob Hogston, who leased space to Davidson.
Several years ago, a previous owner of the building was at odds with the county over the zoning ordinance that didn’t allow tattoo shops in that zone. That owner went to court over the issue and lost.
Davidson claims he knew nothing of the conflict or that Washington County’s zoning ordinance differed from Smyth County’s, and he’s continued to operate in the years since. Despite the court ruling, the county didn’t shut the business down.
The recent round of controversy arose when an April 29 tornado effectively put the tattoo shop out of business – and the county would not issue a permit for the owner to rebuild a business that did not conform to the county zoning ordinance.
County Attorney Lucy Phillips reported to the board before Tuesday’s vote that neither the county’s Land-Use Steering Committee nor its Planning Commission had an objection to the zoning amendment to allow tattoo shops by special exception.
For a special exception to be granted, it must now be individually reviewed by the Planning Commission and approved by the Board of Supervisors. The process allows conditions to be placed on the operation to address any community concerns.
The issue of a special exception for New Addixions is scheduled to go before the Washington County Planning Commission on Monday, and is scheduled for a vote by the Board of Supervisors Dec. 13.
“The building is ready. … He’s [Hogston] nice enough to let it sit there empty waiting on me, too,” Davidson said. “If this goes as planned, then I can open on the 14th. And I will have the building ready to open on the 14th.”
Davidson said Supervisor Tom Taylor, who represents the Glade Spring area on the Board of Supervisors, has been an advocate for moving the process forward.
Taylor said simultaneous advertising of the board meeting and Planning Commission meeting made it possible to speed up a process that would otherwise have lasted into next year. He said the county has made efforts – such as waiving fees and speeding up procedures – to encourage businesses and homeowners to rebuild in Glade Spring.