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School, Tattoo Shop Get Sympathetic Hearing

Posted - May 23, 2006 at 7:42 a.m.



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PROVO, Utah (AP) -- An Orem tattoo shop and the charter school being built nearby have received a sympathetic hearing before the Utah County Board of Health.

Noah Webster Academy is to open in the fall. Its parking lot abuts Quality Tattoo & Body Piercing's back parking lot. The tattoo shop has been there for three years.

The academy, for students in kindergarten through sixth grade, has to get the approval from the board before it can open. The board will make a decision at its meeting in July.

A 1999 health department rule states that tattoo parlors cannot open within 600 feet of a school. However, it has been unclear whether schools can move near existing tattoo shops.

If it can, then there's the question of whether the shop still would be able to get its permit renewed every year.

The health board could grant a variance to the shop to allow it to remain open.

But Quality Tattoo owner Jack Eldredge argued before the board Monday that the waiver wouldn't be given to a new owner because the shop would then be considered a new business, and new businesses can't violate the 600-foot rule.

"There's more than just me involved in this," Eldredge said. "It's not just a simple thing. It's not just a couple dollars. It's our livelihood."

Eldredge said he doesn't know what his next move will be, but did say he was looking for an attorney.

"If the business was there before the school locates there, you'd have to give them the same situation," health director Dr. Joseph Miner said about allowing the tattoo shop to stay.

Provo School District Superintendent Randy Merrill, a board member, called Quality Tattoos an innocent victim, and he questioned the reason for the regulation at all, if the board is not going to enforce it now.

Academy officials think a variance is the solution.

"We're not too concerned for K-6 students walking over and getting a tattoo," said Brian Hughes, counselor for Noah Webster.

The school's organizers said a 6-foot fence will wrap around the school.

Quality Tattoo manager Alyssa Tippetts said that children enter the business now. They are always turned away, but she suspects that more children would come in if the school were next door.

Rep. Jim Ferrin, R-Orem, speaking for the Noah Webster school, said the location would not be a problem because students would never walk by the tattoo shop.

"If they're coming from the west, Momma's going to bring them," he said. "Never mind the tattoo parlor; it's State Street. We don't want kids walking along State Street." Only students from the east will be allowed to walk to the school.

Hughes said parents now are aware of the tattoo parlor, and since they choose whether to enroll their students at the school, the board should let enrollment numbers decide whether to keep the school open.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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