After a months-long discussion, Delaware City Council approved an ordinance June 10 to regulate massage establishments in the city.

Unlike most ordinances that are approved in three readings, the massage ordinance was approved on its seventh reading, following repeated talks among council members and research by city officials.

When introduced, the ordinance was described as a tool to prevent what was characterized as potential human-trafficking activity discovered at massage parlors elsewhere, where sexual activity had occurred.

Such activity is not suspected at any massage businesses in Delaware, city officials said earlier.

City attorney Darren Shulman told council the ordinance's final draft had been modified to cover a number of points that emerged during discussions of the proposal.

One is that anyone with zoning to operate a massage business is subject to inspection by the city at any time.

Every employee performing massage must have certification from a state board, such as the State Medical Board of Ohio, or else the business' certificate of occupancy could be revoked.

Such a step immediately would suspend the business' operations, the ordinance states.

Another requirement is that each employee must have a residence that is not the business location.

Also, a massage establishment seeking a certificate of zoning must pay a one-time $150 fee.

Shulman said the fee was suggested by Sgt. Mark Rapp, director of the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force.

Shulman quoted Rapp as saying the fee and the city's ordinance can serve as deterrents to potentially illicit businesses.

The ordinance also creates a mechanism for council "to consider granting a certificate of zoning compliance for an establishment that performs a type of massage that is not licensed by the state."

Shulman said that passage was added in response to testimony during a May 13 hearing on the ordinance.

Delaware resident Constance Caldwell Piwtorak told council at the hearing that she practices Thai yoga, which doesn't require state licensing.

"We're not massaging people," she said.

She compared Thai yoga to acupuncture, with the distinction that acupressure instead is applied "along energetic lines" of the body.

Also May 13, Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle said the city has about 19 massage businesses, and she didn't want the ordinance to close down any legitimate operations.

Shulman on June 10 said the ordinance is not designed to supplant the city's regulations on adult-entertainment businesses, which are spelled out elsewhere in city code.

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