A new borough law restricting the types of businesses along a core section of Kings Highway in the downtown business district is getting a thumbs up from some local shop owners.
It will restrict certain service businesses, such as massage and nail parlors, piercings and even barber shops and hair salons from Washington Avenue to Haddon Avenue on Kings Highway.
"I think it's long overdue," said Marlee Lick, owner of Harrison's Gift Shop on Kings Highway East. "Who wants to trip over massage and beauty shops in the core of the downtown? The shops that are there now are going to be grandfathered in so it's not going to change what's there now."
The new rules approved last month will allow businesses currently operating in the newly restricted area to continuing operating and will allow a similar business to move into the same location if it immediately follows a business that leaves. But if the use changes after a restricted business moves out, the new rules will not allow a nonconforming use to move back in.
Ping Lu, the owner of the Therapeutic Massage Center at 144 Kings Highway East that apparently accelerated the push for new zoning rules, declined to comment about the new ordinance. She said her English was limited and only asked if a reporter wanted a massage during a visit to the shop this month.
Borough commissioners voted unanimously last month to approve the new rules after more than a year of debate with the planning board. Local officials insist the rules were not a reaction to Lu's shop that moved in May 2011. Some residents openly questioned if the massage parlor would offer sexual services instead of just massages.
Borough Administrator Sharon McCullough said then the rumors about the shop were unfounded and that it was a legitimate business. Still, officials started the process then to change zoning laws to restrict similar businesses from moving in.
“What we’re looking at is if some clarification of the land-use ordinance makes sense,” Ed Borden, a borough commissioner and planning board member, said last year. “We’re looking at what would be an appropriate mix for businesses in the Kings Highway corridor. We’re looking at if there ought to be uses in the Kings Highway corridor that should be discouraged.”
That's just fine with Sue Maslowski, the owner of the Jay West Bridal shop on Kings Highway East.
"I think it will make the storefronts in the downtown look a little bit more appealing," Maslowski said. "Who wants to see someone putting oil in their hair in a picture window?"