Cocoa Beach: Planting The Flag.

Way back on May 17, 2017, the Cocoa Beach Board of Adjustment met to discuss a special exemption for the Cocoa Beach Tattoo Company to open a tattoo parlor / retail operation in Cocoa Beach.

After some horrific advice from the then City Attorney Marsha Segal George as well as faulty reasoning from some Board members, the Board voted to deny the special exemption. We wrote about the denial and what we expected to happen here. We noted at the time that this was a case ripe for an appeal as the City had no legal leg to stand upon and sure enough, the case was appealed.

Unfortunately for the Cocoa Beach Tattoo Company, the appeals and trying to address the issue was caught in the middle of the City trying to find new legal counsel or retain the old counsel. Eventually, the matter was scheduled to be heard by a magistrate but the new City attorney’s looked at the issue and said the legal equivalent of “whoops!” and agreed that the Board of Adjustment never should have denied the special exemption.

Thus, the lawyers agreed to revisit the issue to the Board of Adjustment again where the Board will have to vote to pass the exemption.

That “revisiting” happens tonight at 5:15 PM when the Board of Adjustment meets. You can see the agenda for the meeting here, and the item packet here (as well as an addendum found here.)

This is a win for those of us who value both freedom of expression and economic freedoms. Sadly, it took far too long to get to this point, but we can’t go back in time to change that.

We do want to make sure that people understand that one thing this case does highlight is the need for good legal representation. In 2009 the Cocoa Beach City Commission passed what they felt was a legal ordinance on tattoo parlors within the City. At they time, one of the reasons given was that they City was against the “proliferation” of tattoo parlors opening up. Many of those shops have closed which goes to show that the market is a better decider of what type of shops may survive in a city rather than people on a City Commission. The rule at the time was unnecessary but the Commission did nothing wrong in passing the ordinance.

However, once the courts decided that such a restriction was, in fact, a violation of the First Amendment, the City was in trouble when it came to the ordinance. We cannot stress how well known the case that decided this issue was. Newspaper articles were written about it. It was the talk of legal blogs – including blogs that deal with municipal laws. The case was published and should have been required reading for any lawyer dealing with this type of issue within a City.

Yet that did not happen in Cocoa Beach.

The law firm at the time the application for the special exemption was brought to the Board of Adjustment apparently either did no research on the issue or their research was so faulty that in our opinion, borders upon legal malpractice. You just can’t have a law firm botch something like this up so badly, costing the applicant and the City more time, effort and money to get to the right legal conclusion.

The law firm that was advising the Board of Adjustment is no longer employed by the City and we suspect that this is one of the reasons. It was another cases in a long series of cases where the law firm’s opinion did not match with the law.

Our congratulations to Mark Cox of the Cocoa Beach Tattoo Company and to his legal representative Kimberly Rezenka for getting the right and legal result.

We wish the Cocoa Beach Tattoo Company all of the economic success they can have within Cocoa Beach.

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