OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Artist Matt Stebly will get to move forward with his proposed art gallery and tattoo shop in downtown Ocean Springs. But it wasn't the path of approval he expected.
The Ocean Springs Board of Aldermen took up the controversial issue at its meeting Tuesday night.
"Through the last couple weeks, you can tell that people are not opposed to us being downtown," Stebly told the board, as he politely outlined his project plans. He made it clear to city leaders, he did not want any special treatment.
"I'm not asking for any favoritism by any means for my last name or who I may related to," he said.
But the great grandson of famed Ocean Springs artist Walter Anderson did receive kind words from several aldermen for his own artistic talent and worldwide reputation.
"Matt, I'll be the first one to tell you, if there's a guy that I would embrace to do this, it would probably be you because of your reputation and your understanding of what our city is truly about," said Alderman Matt McDonnell. "But there's some other shops that may not be at the same standard that you are."
"I just want to ask you, how it's going to be arranged. The tattoo shop and the art shop," said Alderman John Gill.
"There will be a receptionist, a reception area breaking up the art gallery and the tattoo side," Stebly replied.
"We're glad to have you in Ocean Springs and we think this is going to be a good situation the way you've got it set up and you designed it," said Gill. "You're working with the city, and we appreciate that."
The board then voted to consider changes to the zoning ordinance, changes that would allow, but regulate, tattoo shops in the downtown business district.
"And our goal will be to bring it back in June, to our first meeting, for a public hearing," said Mayor Connie Moran.
The proposed zoning changes would allow tattoo shops in the downtown business district, provided they comply with certain regulations such as distances from churches, schools and other tattoo shops.
Matt Stebly said although this will further delay his plans to move downtown, he's generally pleased with the outcome, which will likely allow that re-location.