Hiawatha Council Opts to Include Tattoo Parlors in Future Downtown Plans

By Jill Kasparie, Reporter

HIAWATHA, Iowa – Things heated up inside a Hiawatha City Council meeting as a tattoo business successfully argues it should get to be included in the city's future plans.

The council met to consider an ordinance that creates a downtown area or city center along the northern portion of Center Point Road.

After weeks of considering the future of Hiawatha a committee came up with a plan to re-zone Center Point Road and create three new districts. That plan included language that could ban certain businesses, including tattoo parlors.

Wednesday night, however, the council decided to make a big change to that proposal after hearing from people at the meeting.

It will now allow body art businesses in all three new zoning districts located along Center Point Road, between Blairs Ferry and Boyson Roads. The council moved ahead with the ordinance, but set a September public hearing to amend the language to officially vote on including tattoo parlors.

Business owners and residents shared a lot of concerns at the council meeting on Wednesday. They all wanted answers on this zoning plan and what it really meant for their futures and the future of the city. In fact, it was standing room only in the council chambers.

"I want to see this area do better. But I just think that a slowdown is what I'm asking for," said one man at the council meeting.

"I can't figure out what in the world we are trying to do," said another man.

The city wants to create a place that draws new businesses and creates growth.

"We have one chance to do it correctly, and we hope we are going to do that," said Hiawatha Mayor Tom Theis.

Supporters of Neon Dragon Tattoo wanted it done right, too. They were out in full force at the council meeting. They weren't happy when tattoo shops were not included in the initial zoning proposal.

"So to be told we can't or we don't fit the vision or we're not going to be in the zoning, Why?" Neon Dragon Tattoo's Jay R Wilson said.

In a few years, the building that houses Neon Dragon Tattoo could come down as part of future road construction plans. They want to be able to relocate in the heart of the city. Council members initially said they wanted to keep the new city center family friendly. Some questioned why other business types would be allowed.

"My question is: Why are you going to allow a bar or a sports bar in CPR one, two and three when you have to be 21? It's a drinking facility," said one Neon Dragon Tattoo Supporter.

"We are a very family oriented group of individuals. If you ever came into our shop, you would see when people come in and they do have kids, I grab my guitar off the wall and I sing to the kids," said Neon Dragon Tattoo Owner Jason Evans.

In the end, the council said these decisions of making changes are never easy, but they're making plans to include tattoo parlors in all three zones.

Neon Dragon Tattoo employees said they were very pleased with the outcome of the meeting. They said this is what they fought for and won.

The city said it made the decision based on the tattoo parlor's positive influence and because of that consideration of bars in the same area.
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