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Dormont to hold public hearing on revised zoning codes

| Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015, 1:27 a.m.
Guy Wathen | Trib Total Media
Trevor Howells, of Shaler, tattoos one of his mentors Jim Stanley, of Dormont, inside the Alter Ego Body Art Studio in Dormont on Monday, Feb. 16, 2015. Howells had just completed his apprenticeship and was giving Stanley a tattoo as part of a graduation tradition.

New zoning regulations could draw the curtains on some of Dormont's most prolific businesses, if passed by council next month.

Part of Dormont's revised zoning code, up for a hearing March 2, would change requirements for operating pawn shops, cash-for-gold shops, check-cashing businesses and tattoo parlors by limiting where new ones can open and requiring them to follow new rules for security and visibility.

A series of ordinances up for a vote at the same time would apply some of the same rules to existing businesses that would otherwise be “grandfathered” or exempted under the old zoning code, said borough Manager Jeff Naftal.

“Tattoo parlors and coin shops ... don't attract people to stop, park, walk around and spend money. It doesn't make for a people-friendly business district,” said council President Bill McCartney. “The (proposed zoning code change) wasn't aimed at them, necessarily, it was aimed at improving the zoning to attract more diverse businesses.”

McCartney said the zoning code rewrite was needed to bring the borough's regulations up to date with current standards and court cases, establish a broader range of zoning types and allowable uses, and set rules that fit how residents want to live.

“Our previous code didn't allow dogs in the parks until three years ago, that's how behind the times we were,” he said.

One new rule for tattoo parlors and body piercing shops would require them to cover their windows and keep any work areas screened from view from entrances and public spaces.

That concerns Dave Spik and his wife, Jaime Wilson-Spik, Dormont residents and co-owners of Alter Ego Body Art Studio, which has two walls of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Potomac Avenue.

“There's a lot of stigmas that come with tattoo shops. We're saying we don't have anything to hide: Our shop is clean and using proper sterilization procedures,” Wilson-Spik said. “If this passes, we'd be having to kind of go back in time, and hide all of that.”

Spik said there were issues with the proposed requirement that tattoo shops follow certain sterilization and health standards and display any registrations required by the state Department of Health, because Pennsylvania has no statewide licensing of tattoo parlors.

Under the new rules, check-cashing businesses, pawn shops/cash-for-gold and firearms businesses also must be well-lit and visible from the street, without any merchandise or obstructions in the windows. They must have security plans filed with the borough and authorization for police to enforce trespassing laws on their premises.

Borough Solicitor John Rushford said the move would make the rules for safety and health equal for new and pre-existing businesses.

“These requirements are all relatively easy to comply with,” he said.

Sarbor Olimov, general manager of MaxPoint Gold Buyers on West Liberty Avenue, said his shop already complies with most of the proposed rules.

“We have a security system, our windows aren't tinted, and we don't sell merchandise, so there's nothing to display in the windows,” he said.

New tattoo parlors, check-cashing businesses and pawn shops will be permitted only in “urban neighborhood commercial” districts to be located at either end of West Liberty Avenue as it passes through the borough, and then only with special approvals.

Proposed restrictions would bar such businesses from being opened within 600 feet of a school or public park, 100 feet of a residence, 1,000 feet of any businesses selling alcohol or 1,000 feet of an existing pawn shop, check-cashing business or similar use.

Naftal said the location restrictions would not apply to existing businesses, including the tattoo parlors, check-cashing businesses and pawn shops.

The zoning update would establish standards for “local neighborhood commercial” districts, which would cover most of West Liberty and Potomac Avenue businesses; “transit-oriented development” districts for denser and mixed-use developments around the Potomac and Dormont Junction light-rail stations; and separate zones for “single-family,” “one- and two-family” and “multi-family” residential development.

The update also puts the code online in an easily readable, searchable format, Naftal said.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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