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Draft rules address issues concerning massage therapy

Washington’s Planning Board, during its meeting last week, unanimously approved proposed ordinances, one dealing with the differences between therapeutic massage therapy and massage parlors and one addressing adult businesses.

The proposed ordinances go to the City Council for review and possible inclusion with existing city ordinances.

Three licensed massage therapists attended the meeting. One of them, Angie Shiflett with Market Street Massage Bodywork & Gift Shop, asked the board how the issue of regulating massage-therapy businesses and dealing with adult businesses in the city arose. John Rodman, the city’s director of community and cultural resources, explained that the current city ordinances do not differentiate between therapeutic massages and massage parlors associated with adult businesses. Rodman said the city, although it has not received a request to open an adult business, wants to be prepared to deal with such a request, if and when, it is received.

The city’s Planning Board, at the request of the City Council, has been researching and developing standards for massage and adult businesses within the city limits. One of the challenges the board faced was defining different types of massage businesses and crafting specific rules pertaining to the operation of those different types.

Massage businesses were included in the city code written in 1996, Rodman said, but there have been a lot of changes with what’s thought of as traditional massage parlors since 1996.

“It’s the word massage that’s giving everybody (concerns),” board Chairman John B. Tate III said at last week’s meeting.

Shiflett told the board that she and other licensed massage therapists must have a specified amount of classroom education and hands-on experience before receiving their licenses. “We are regularly monitored and have regulations we have to meet,” she said. Shiflett also said licensed massage therapists also take continuing-education classes to remain up to date with the latest massage techniques and regulations.

Shiflett also questioned an age requirement that was included in an earlier version of the proposed ordinance. That requirement would have prevented someone under the age of 21 from receiving a therapeutic massage. The new proposed ordinance does not include that provision. Shiflett said licensed massage therapists may give massage treatments to anyone under the age of 18 with parental consent.

Under the proposed regulations, a therapeutic massage business would need a license to operate and its health massage (and bodywork) therapists would have to be licensed by the state to perform such therapy. Employees would be required to be at least 21 years old.

A health massage and bodyworks therapy business would be allowed in the city’s business historic, general business and office and institutional districts as a permitted use with special developmental standards.

The proposed regulations pertaining to an adult business defines such a business as an adult bookstore, adult movie theaters, adult live entertainment venues or massage parlors. However, adult businesses are not limited to those listed. An adult business would require a special-use permit, which would be issued by the city’s Board of Adjustment, and be allowed in the city’s heavy industrial and light industrial zoning districts. The special-use permit, which could include specific conditions, would be good for one year and must be renewed annually.

The proposed rules require that windows, doors, openings, entries and other similar items be covered, screened or treated so that views into the interior of the business are not possible from any public or semi-public area, street or way. An adult business must be at least 500 feet from residential districts, churches, parks, playground, school, library or areas where large number of children regularly travel or congregate.

The proposed regulations require an adult business to have a license issued by the city and operate only from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. Employees and customers must be at least 21 years old.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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