Gilbert will regulate tattoo studios, pawnshops, smoking lounges and check-cashing outlets after the Town Council voted 4-3 to approve the "nontraditional business" ordinance, which has been making its way through the city's approval processes.
Any new businesses that fall into these categories will be required to locate at least 1,000 feet away from each other, and additional separation requirements will apply to tattoo salons and smoking lounges.
The first controversial issue tackled by the newly seated council ended up with Mayor John Lewis as the swing vote. Lewis indicated he had been inclined to vote against the ordinance on free-enterprise principles but had been swayed in favor by talking to business executives in the life sciences industry about why Gilbert had scored a recent economic coup by attracting a prestigious cancer treatment center.
"I asked them why M.D. Anderson came here and why they are considering that Gilbert would be an ideal location and it had so much to do with the clean, safe, vibrant community that, for economic development, my vote would be in the affirmative."
Council members Linda Abbott, Dave Crozier and John Sentz also were in favor of the new restrictions in Tuesday's vote. Abbott was the council member who first broached the topic, and Sentz strongly supported it as a Planning Commission member before taking his seat on the council June 16.
Crozier said he was concerned by the precedent he's seen in Mesa with the clustering of check-cashing and similar outlets, as well as massage parlors, which were originally part of the Gilbert ordinance out of worries that some of them might be fronts for prostitution. These were dropped, with the thinking that any such situations could be handled by the police.
"There's probably more of them in Mesa than in any other city in the country," Crozier said.
Council members Jenn Daniels, Les Presmyk and Steve Urie voted against the ordinance, saying they did not see enough proof such businesses were detrimental for them to be able to vote in favor.
"I'd like to support this, but my feeling is there's no data to support it on and there's no data to hang your hat on," Urie said.