trustees found themselves in a quandary during the July 24 board meeting. The topic at hand: whether or not to allow another hair salon to open up shop in downtown Homewood.
The dilemma is unusual for the typically business-friendly village, but an amendment passed in April of this year forced them to give the item extra thought. The amendment requires special use permits for certain businesses coming into the central business district. The need for a permit is intended to give the village more control over the economic diversity of the downtown area. Hair salons, in particular, are one type of business that the permit is trying to regulate.
Despite the odds against her, Shantel Houston applied for a special use permit to open Heavenly Hands Hair Studio in the 300-square-foot location to the rear of Burrito Express. The location, at 2010 Elm, was previously a hair salon, and a travel agency before that.
There was much discussion at a previous plan commission meeting, over the need for a business like Heavenly Hands, according to Homewood Community Development Director Paula Wallrich. The commission ultimately arrived at a vote of three to two, in favor of the salon. Their biggest concern, Wallrich said, was for the other 34 hair salons in the village, especially the 15 salons in the central business district alone. Wallrich says the commission was swayed in Houston’s favor after learning that 40 percent of her business is in restorative hair care—treatments for individuals who, for one reason or another, are losing their hair.
Trustee Barbara Dawkins was not enthused about the new salon. She said she wants to see retail come into the downtown area.
“We made this a special use for a reason … we have an overabundance of hair salons in the downtown area,” Dawkins said.
Trustee Lisa Purcell felt the board should be more discriminating in its choices for the location.
“We need to be picky. Do we just want to see a space filled? Or do we want to see the best use for that space?”
Trustee Anne Colton said she agrees with Dawkin’s and Purcell’s frustration in seeing another hair salon in town, but that wasn’t enough to affect her voting.
“I don’t disagree with what I’m hearing from Trustee Dawkins (and Purcell) … I’m a big believer in economic diversity,” Colton said. “It’s more of a philosophical issue for me. We live in a capitalistic democracy and it’s about letting the market place do what the market place does. As a board, I don’t know if it’s our job to pick who’s going to stay or who’s going to go. It’s a slippery slope that we’re going to be on because what’s that going to stop from turning into cronyism?”
Trustee Jay Heiferman quickly announced his support for the item during his time to talk. Between the service offered and the “off-the-main-drag” location, Heiferman says he does not think this is a situation dealing with prime real estate.
Trustee Ray Robertson agrees.
“If this was at the corner of Ridge and Dixie … I would not be supporting it. “I think the location has to be considered … I don’t even know what else would go in a space like that.”
Trustee Tom Kataras was absent for voting.
The board's final decision was three to two, in favor of approving the special use permit.