Tattoo artist James Walther says it's time for the Township of Langley to rethink some of its zoning rules.
The owner of Pro Pain Ink wants to move his eight-year-old business from Surrey to Brookswood. However, tattoo shops do not fall under the commercial use provisions of Township's bylaws.
"If I wanted to open a massage parlour and sell drug paraphernalia, I wouldn't have a problem," Walther said. "They (Township) don't have a problem with that, but they have a problem with a tattoo shop? It boggles my mind."
He's been speaking to councillors about this issue the last few weeks and even addressed Township council April 2 in an effort to get the bylaw changed.
"If the community is solidly behind this idea, I have no problem supporting it," Councillor Kim Richter says, "but I really need to see significant community support for it."
She said depending on whether or not this is considered a policy bylaw or one that requires a public hearing, Walther is looking at anywhere between one month to a year before the zoning definition is changed to accommodate tattoo shops.
Walther also needs to make a strong business case to show he can support a tattoo shop in Brookswood, according to Richter.
Although she asked him during his address to council if he considered opening a shop in the City of Langley where tattoo parlours are permitted, Walther said he's determined to move the business to Brookswood.
This would allow him to walk six blocks to work, be closer to his kids while they're at school and save $100 a month on gas.
He says the owner of Riders Pub in Brookswood told him he could use an adjoining space at the bar to establish a new shop.
"The situation that I've been offered (from Riders Pub) — everything's perfect, I couldn't ask for anything more," he said. "The only thing holding me back is the Township's definitions of commercial use."
Medical marijuana dispensaries, pawnbrokers and casino halls are also banned from commercial use under Township zoning bylaws.
"In 1987 when they made (the bylaw), I understand that a little bit," Walther says, adding many residents likely felt uncomfortable with the types of people who would go to a tattoo shop back then.
But he said things have changed a lot in the last 25 years.
"Now it's everybody. Dads, grandmas, doctors, lawyers, police officers — everybody has a tattoo pretty much."
He points to the West Coast Tattoo and Culture Show held at the Langley Events Centre in 2010 as a perfect example of how the community has mostly come to accept the practice.
Walther said he will continue to reach out to the community for support — he managed to collect about 150 signatures for a petition he presented to council — and is also taking his cause to the Brookswood Village Merchants Association.
Walther said one of the reasons he's confident he can get the association's backing is because the lack of competition in the immediate area.
"Plus all my regulars, they would go wherever I am," he said. "That's the other thing, too. It would bring in a lot of outside business into Brookswood."
Furthermore, Walther said there are a number of patrons at Riders Pub who've told him they're ready to get inked as soon as he sets up shop.
"There's countless other artists that work in the Township," he said. "The only difference is I do my art on skin and they do theirs on canvass."
Walther said anyone wishing to support him can sign a petition at Riders Pub.