A new tattoo shop and commercial illustration studio is a step closer to joining the downtown Kent business sector.
Kent Planning Commission voted 3-0 last week to approve a conditional zoning certificate and site plan for the residentially zoned properties at 812 and 850 S. Water St.
Applicant Wendi Koontz, a Kent native, and her husband Carlos Gonzales, want to live in a residence at 812 S. Water St. and operate their proposed business in an adjacent building at 850 S. Water St. The couple has not yet purchased the properties.
Planning commission approval was with the condition that the city's Board of Zoning Appeals grants a parking variance for the business to allow operation there with three parking spaces instead of the code-required six.
The board will review that request July 15.
Koontz and Gonzales would be the main artists at the tattoo studio, although Koontz said she would like to offer guest artists at times.
The couple works at Rising Dragon Tattoos in Manhattan in New York City. Koontz said she specializes in authentic Japanese tattooing styles, which she claims makes her studio unique from others in the area.
Koontz is also a freelance illustrator and art designer, and part of the studio would be dedicated to that work.
She added the business would rely predominantly on by-appointment visits and not walk-in customers, adding she has a dedicated client base that includes international customers who would continue to seek out her work regardless of location.
She said her freelance illustrating is handled predominantly over the Internet.
Jason Miller, owner of Crucible Tattoo at 707 S. Water St., which opened roughly five months ago, encouraged planning commission to deny the conditional zoning request.
He argued the shop could negatively impact his new business, noting he sought his current Kent location because of the relative isolation of his shop on South Water Street from other tattoo studios in downtown.
Commission member John Gargan said he sympathized with Miller's concerns, but noted it's not the commission's charge to weigh competition in determining if a proposed business is appropriate in the area.
Gargan asked Koontz why Kent needs another tattoo studio, echoing a question asked of Miller during his time in front of the planning commission several months ago.
Koontz -- a 1992 graduate of Theodore Roosevelt High School and 1998 graduate of Kent State University -- said Kent "probably doesn't" need another tattoo parlor, but emphasized her artistic work is her passion and that she wants to raise a family and run a business in her hometown.
"After 15 years away, I'm ready to come home," she said.
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