Medical tattooing services would become more widely available in St. Petersburg under a proposed amendment to the city’s land development regulations.
The Development Review Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to recommend the City Council approve the amendment, which would differentiate traditional tattoo services from “paramedical tattooing” and allow medical tattooing in all districts where medical office uses are allowed.
The amendment would define medical tattooing as cosmetic tattoos or micropigmentation which help to camouflage scars, burns, birthmarks or other skin imperfections resulting from surgeries, injuries or medical conditions, including tattoo removal. It does not include tattoos for the sole purpose of body decoration or art, city planner Britton Wilson told DRC members.
Current city regulations do not make a distinction between traditional body art tattooing and paramedical tattooing. Body art tattooing businesses are categorized as a “service establishment,” along with laundromats, dry cleaning and various repair services and are limited to certain zoning districts, under current rules.
The change was proposed by Emily Hedrick, who works in the medical tattooing industry.
“One of the big problems with including paramedical tattooing in the service establishment [category] is it prevents plastic surgery offices, ones that I work closely with, from doing these services on breast cancer survivors, on burn victims. Saying a client can only receive those services in a tattoo parlor doesn’t make sense the way the industry is moving now,” Hendrick told the DRC. “On the cosmetic side, those services primarily are done in salons, spas, medical day spas. It’s not so much a service done in tattoo parlors anymore. Because these services are treated like a medical procedure, we only see one client at a time. Clients go through a vetting process. These procedures are hundreds of dollars and many times they are covered by insurance.”
Hedrick created a change.org petition and there are almost 1,500 signatures in support of the proposed change.
The proposal also has the backing of Dr. Robert Rehnke, a St. Petersburg plastic surgeon who takes care of women who have undergone mastectomies for breast cancer. Paramedical tattooing is an important adjunct to surgical breast reconstruction, Rehnke wrote in a letter advocating for the change in land use rules.
Some DRC commissioners wondered if the change would “open the floodgates” and allow tattoo parlors that do body art tattooing to locate in districts where medical offices are allowed. That wouldn’t happen, city staff said. While tattoo studios still could do paramedical tattooing under the change, they would have to do 100 percent paramedical tattooing to locate in a medical office district, staff said.
Development Review Commission members found the amendment was consistent with the city’s Comprehensive Plan and voted unanimously to endorse it. A City Council hearing has not yet been scheduled.