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Tattoo, body piercing establishments now welcome in downtown Morganton
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Morganton City Council

Tattoo, body piercing establishments now welcome in downtown Morganton

Tattoo, body piercing businesses now welcome in downtown


Tattoo artists and fans alike can rejoice after action taken at the Morganton City Council’s meeting on Nov. 2.

Council members voted unanimously to approve an application to amend the city zoning ordinance’s table of permitted uses to body art establishments within the central business district.

A public hearing was held on the topic and no one made any comments in disagreement with the application. Multiple comments were made in favor of the application.

The council had multiple options to consider. The original proposal would have added restrictions to tattoo parlors or other body piercing establishments that would not have applied to other businesses in the CBD.

City Attorney Louis Vinay pointed out to the council that the planning and zoning committee voted to recommend the change without any additional restrictions.

One reason for that was that it would have been difficult for city staff to make sure businesses were complying with the restrictions. Another was that the city could be legally liable if someone were to sue the city for enforcing a content-based restriction.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against content-based restrictions in Reed ed al. v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona in 2015.

Ultimately, the council opted to amend the ordinance without any additional restrictions on body art establishments.

Council members also made a couple of other changes to the zoning ordinance that should allow a property owner to build on his property on Lyman Court.

The first change added a restricted residential overlay to the area of the property, which would restrict uses in the district to residential only but allow for higher density builds, like apartments, duplexes or condominiums, in districts where those are allowed.

“What this overlay allows them to do is to gain that density, but it gives the neighboring properties, it gives city council, the planning and zoning commission, it gives them the reliability that there’s not going to be any commercial uses developed or constructed around those properties,” said Phillip Lookadoo, director of the city’s department of development and design. “In the climate that we’re in now, with the housing shortage and what not, it really allows us a tool to be able to get higher density housing, particularly in and around the downtown, without fear of an incompatible use adjacent to that residential, or existing residential, rather.”

After adopting that zoning ordinance, council voted to rezone about two acres on Lyman Court from residential low/conditional use to medium intensity district with the restricted residential overlay.

Originally, the properties were zoned as conditional use, which meant only one already-approved plan for the properties would be allowed, but the new zoning opens the properties up to the residential properties allowed in the MID.

Several concerns were brought to the city’s attention regarding this, including the increased traffic to the area.

Lookadoo said the North Carolina Department of Transportation would require a turning lane to be added West Union Street in the area of Lyman Court.

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He also said the council may consider dropping the speed limit on West Union Street down to 20 mph in the area. The change is not required by NCDOT, but Lookadoo said the city often has received complaints about how dangerous it is to make left turns in the area of Terrace Place and Lyman Court.

The council also awarded a slew of contracts for electric work to take place in the city. Those bids included:

» A contract with Carolina Power and Signalization of Fayetteville for $346,731.46 to replace power poles around the city that rated poorly.

» A contract with Carl Grigg Electric & Supply Inc. of Shelby for $211,170 to replace and upgrade underground service at Victory Point Condominiums.

» A contract with Southeastern Consulting Engineers Inc. for $237,930 to design delivery point #7, which will replace the city’s Rand Street delivery point.

Renovations are well underway on the city’s Historic Courthouse Square, and with those renovations the city decided to award a contract to Miki Iwasaki for the artwork that will be installed on the square.

The contract with Iwasaki, worth $57,000 spread over three payments through the life of the project, will pay for the backdrop of the stage soon to be erected on the square.

Morganton is gaining a new business owner as Linda Knollmeyer, manager at The Natural Olive, looks to buy the business from the company and rename it The Olive of Morganton.

Council members voted to award a Community Development Block Grant small business loan of $30,000 to The Olive of Morganton LLC.

“She’s already doing some creative things with the menu and business and all of those things,” said City Manager Sally Sandy. “The Natural Olive, soon to be The Olive of Morganton, has been a real mainstay in downtown and a very popular place for us.”

Other items approved by the council included:

» An update to the city’s personnel policy on smoking and tobacco use

» Meeting minutes from a special meeting and regular meeting held Oct. 5, and a special town hall meeting held Oct. 13

» A budget amendment worth $19,791.33 for an insurance reimbursement from damage at a fire station

» A budget amendment worth $10,695.25 for insurance reimbursement for damage to a building at Shuey Field

» Award of a contract worth $125,000 to Miracle Recreation Equipment Company to replace the playground equipment at Martha’s Park

The council will meet again Dec. 7.

Chrissy Murphy is a staff writer and can be reached at or at 828-432-8941. Follow @cmurphyMNH on Twitter.

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