Gilbert's ordinance to regulate pawnshops, tattoo parlors and other "nontraditional businesses" is beginning to take shape, but a split over whether $1,500 use permits should be required was mulled by the town's Planning Commission this week.
A task force led by Town Councilwoman Linda Abbott was formed to look at what rules might be put into place to govern placement for these types of businesses, which would also include check-cashing outlets and stand-alone smoking lounges.
Under a draft version of an ordinance which is expected to eventually reach the Town Council for a vote, nontraditional businesses would be allowed within all four of the town's commercial zoning districts, but would have to be located about 1,200 feet away from each other, and 500 feet away from another nontraditional use.
Smoking lounges, including hookah bars, would have to be situated at least a quarter-mile from public or private schools, and tattoo/piercing parlors must be at least 500 feet away from schools, day-care centers and religious gathering sites.
The proposed law was written according to the task force's recommendations, but the group stopped short of calling for owners of such businesses to also obtain a use permit. Commission member Jennifer Wittman said there wasn't a strong consensus on that point, however.
Business owners on the whole didn't favor any additional business regulation beyond the spacing requirements, while those without a vested business interest felt the additional step of a permit was warranted. Wittman, who sat on the task force, said she fell in the latter category.
"We should make sure the public is able to know about these types of uses and provide feedback before they come in," she said. "Not that it would necessarily affect the decision we make, but this is a community they've invested in."
Commissioner John Sentz, a candidate for Town Council in the May 19 election, agreed. "We require use permits for drive-throughs, for starters, and for carwashes, so we're not breaking new ground when we ask for a use permit," he said, adding that the cost and time required for permits could be reduced for everyone.
To receive a use permit, businesses must pay a $1,500 fee and get approval from the Planning Commission, or appeal the case to the Town Council. Commissioner Brigette Peterson said the permits weren't necessary because if the businesses met all the other conditions that were set out, the commission would probably approve them anyway. "And that's another 30, 60, 90 days before they can open, and another $1,500 out of their pocket," she said.
The more commissioners spoke the clearer the divide became. Town planning staff had hoped to have the commission vote on the ordinance at the May 6 meeting. Instead, they will hold a public hearing on the ordinance.
Town planner Mike Milillo said Thursday town staff wasn't leaning in one direction or the other on the question of use permits either. "I really don't know what we're going to propose at this point, on this issue," he said.