A Downtown Business is Caught in the Maw of Bureaucracy


Arcane tattoo shop owners, Steve Cole and Mark Lankin, have been waiting for a business licence for over three months.
Pic: Gagandeep Ghuman

By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Feb. 22, 2014

When Mark Lankin and Steve Cole moved to Squamish to open a tattoo shop on Second Ave, they were convinced it was the right move.

The town was pretty, close to Vancouver, and they had a business that filled a niche.  

“There is just way too much red tape in Squamish.” Mark Lankin.

But now, caught in the maw of Squamish bureaucracy, they have come to doubt that decision.

Even though they are a service-based business, the Second Ave shop they rent is zoned light industrial.

District of Squamish is refusing to give them a business license, asking them to either applying for a rezoning or move to a new location that is  zoned commercial.

For the past three months, both have been trying to convince the district to change the zoning as most businesses at the end of Second Ave are commercial or service based.

They have yet to hear from the district. In this limbo, their business is technically illegal.

“There is just way too much red tape in Squamish,” Lankin said.

“They should be encouraging business, not hindering it.”

Councillor Ted Prior owns the building on Second Ave.

A rezoning application would mean he would have to put hundreds of thousands in amenities like street lights, etc.

Prior said a few years ago he had his property rezoned to C-10, a special zone which allows personal services like a tattoo shop.

Later, he said the district told him the zoning was never successful.

“I can’t say too much as a councillor, but I’m working to get this issue resolved,” he said.

Misplaced zoning is a wrong Coun. Susan Chapelle is working hard to right.

“The zoning is messed up all over Squamish and we need to do something about it,” she said.

Chapelle said there are professional and commercial services like gyms in the business park, while professional service shops have been zoned industrial and light industrial in downtown.

When she wanted to set up a shop in downtown Squamish 14 years ago, Chapelle said she was told the area was zoned industrial.

But the district asked her to go ahead anyways, saying they are a complaint-based business.

“They said don’t worry about it, just put your business out here,” she said.

As for the tattoo shop, she said if other service-based businesses on Second Ave have business licence, so should the tattoo shop.


  1. Dave says:

    Typical and very sad! Get on with it Council or stop all the whining about Downtown not moving ahead and prospering! You have the power to ruin people’s lives through petty rules and you have the power to encourage REAL progress. Well said Ted and Susan.

  2. Gord says:

    As long as its not a drive thru should be no problem. What a joke

  3. Sarah says:

    Must say I totally agree with the above comments. I would hope that my tax dollars are better used on issues that actually matter and not minor zoning screw ups. People choose a place of business for a reason – Let them have it. At least it’s not a stinky steaming stack oozing environmental disaster. These guys are international tattoo heroes. Let them bring their people here and get tattooed!

  4. Dave says:

    Now lets see, we have a lack of business activity Downtown, we have a congestion of parking on Cleveland where the businesses are, we have an apparent rude bylaw officer chastising a 70 year old trying make a charitable donation of computers and books to the Hotspot because he couldn’t park further way down the street, we have a would-be business refused a permit because of too much zoning red tape. We have Council gloating over the fines they have collected,

    Hey what’s happenin’ man? Business as usual, I guess! Let’s paint the town red and see if that will make a difference…..anything for some fun. :-)

    • MichaelL65 says:

      Let’s not forget about the incidents a few years ago where by-law officers threatened to fine a Cleveland Avenue flower shop owner for “littering” on Valentines Day! The horrific trespass of a local by-law? Placing rose petals n the sidewalk at the entrance of the store. Then there was the incident regarding a classic car being parked in front of a store on Cleveland! (Granted, it was on the sidewalk, but, if I recall, the sidewalk is slightly wider at that point). The DOS is trying to re-brand Squamish and attract business, especially to the DT core. Here’s a novel idea for a re-branding – “Squamish: Open For Business!” Good luck with that.

  5. Gailforce says:

    if you tell them they can’t run that business there, then you have to tell everyone else that is running a business there to move too. come on squamish, get the eviction notices ready. you’ve got alot of people to kick out because apparently they aren’t in the right zones.
    boo squamish municipality. you win the prize for your extraordinary lack of common sense.

  6. Dave says:

    Back in 1975, I built a cedar fence in my front yard which was 3ft 6 ins. high. Evidently is was deemed to be 6ins. over-height according to the current bylaws of the time. The bylaw officers caught me. So I went to council and complained in a meeting in front of the Mayor (Pat Brennan). I said that there were many in the Highlands with higher fences that were not challenged. So the Mayor ordered that the B.L.O. should go count all the offenders and report back. The result revealed over fifty. So the mayor ruled, right there, that I should keep my fence and that the bylaw should be revised. Pat Brennan was a great Mayor!….A quick SENSBLE decision with no red tape to address a STUPID bylaw! Why can’t we do that kind of thing now?

  7. Geo Hyperform says:

    How about free tattoos for district managers. Colorful “Red tape” tattoos across their left hands, then, to balance, a rubber stamp tatto on the other hand, acknowledging how some kinds of businesses are more welcome than others.

  8. miles says:

    This doesn’t surprise me, it’s like you have to know people to geysers anything done in this town. That’s if you’re an average person, rich and well connected. Different story

  9. Rick says:

    Councillor Ted Prior owns the building on Second Ave.
    A rezoning application would mean he would have to put hundreds of thousands in amenities like street lights, etc.

    You were supposed to put this stuff in when you built your building. A lot of us remember what you got away with back then Mr Prior.

  10. Dave says:

    I’m curious, do the people that use the buildings in the same zone as Mr. Prior’s building have special night vision? They seemed to have managed very well without all these “required” extra lights until now. Let’s face it, Council seems to not like Tattoo parlors and is using a technicality to stop it. Isn’t this the kind of thing bylaws are really designed for anyway…..a charity shop would have probably been fine :-)

  11. Rick says:

    Dave Dave Dave. Do a little research before you jump on the anti-bylaw wagon. Your a lot better than your comments reflect.

  12. Dave says:

    Rick. Thank you for the knuckle rap. My whole point here is to highlight the fact that there good bylaws, bad bylaws (many redundant, many badly written or difficult to interpret). Some bylaws are inconsistently applied , sadly, sometimes for political or nepotistic reasons…. I could give you many examples but you seem to be an expert on them anyway.
    All need to be looked at closely and some editing is needed. When any bylaw is applied it should be done politely and with reasons clearly explained….then we will have a town to be even more proud of. Those bylaws which are, truly, for the benefit of us all, should be applied firmly. The best example, I can think of is the Dog off leash and dog waste collection/ disposal.

  13. Rick says:

    If you would like to talk/read about a miss use of a bylaw, look into the “Site Specific Rezoning” one. This is where you can force an overnight shelter into a family neighborhood against the wishes of the people that live there. If your not sure what I am referring to, it is the relocation of the Helping Hands Emergency over night shelter. Have a read of their proposal here.

    I like the part where the applicant (Helping Hands) informs us the residents of the area, “The Wilson Cres neighborhood has inherent issues with drug and alcohol abuse, criminal activity and a high number of unsupported marginalized individuals who suffer from mental illness and poverty”. Good to know.