Massage in Stoughton: Rezoned

Published: June 3, 2014

Your chapter, advocating for YOU!

Could you imagine earning your massage license, moving to a new town, getting a lease for your apartment and office, renovating the office space- painting it, furnishing it, getting signage and business cards made up- but when you go to the town to get a business license they tell you that zoning ordinances do not allow a massage establishment on that street? Instead, the town considers a massage business to be an Adult Entertainment Establishment. This happened to an AMTA-MA Chapter member.

For years massage therapists attempting to work in Stoughton, MA were told that they could only practice within the establishment of another professional business (chiropractor, gym, spa) but not as a stand-alone business, except in a particular commercially zoned area. This situation was the result of a thirty-plus year old bylaw, back when massage therapy was not licensed by the state and each city and town was allowed to regulate in many arbitrary ways. But there it stayed for all those years. Until now.

Our member, Doug Turet, came to the AMTA-MA Chapter for advice. We, in turn, referred him to our attorney, Scott Dunlap. He determined that getting a town representative to support and petition for the zoning change was the most effective and proficient way for us to go, and off we went. Over the last several months, AMTA-MA Chapter volunteers and Attorney Dunlap went to meetings: zoning board meetings, planning board meetings, selectmen meetings.

Chapter volunteer Deb Nugnes testified at length, educating town officials about our professional standards and business functions. Deb had attended the MTF’s research conference in Boston months before this and was able to cite some impressive data regarding the benefits of massage.

At the end of her testimony, Deb gave the example of her own private practice, located in a professional office building with lawyers, therapists, CPA’s, etc. and noted that as a full-time practicing massage therapist she is able to support her family.

Consequently, in a town meeting in May the vote went 100-yea to 8-nay for allowing massage to be practiced anyplace in town. Now, in Stoughton, LMTs can apply for and receive a business license to practice anywhere in town they choose.

Deb said of the process, “The best part about this whole thing is not simply that we got some zoning laws changed and now LMT's can hang a shingle without being dependent on another establishment, it's that we were able to educate a rather large group of folks about the benefits of massage therapy and having access to licensed therapist throughout their town.”

We’re especially please with the thoughts from Doug, who said, “There are several different organizations that represent massage therapists, here in the Americas, and in fairness, they all have their merits. But, to the best of my knowledge, there's only one that will stand by you, through thick and thin, and even go so far as to "even the odds", if absolutely necessary, by providing legal support for a sole proprietor who is outnumbered by more than 100:1, and that's the American Massage Therapy Association.”

The AMTA MA Chapter provides many, many benefits beyond what is offered by the national organization. Access to an attorney is just one such benefit, and in the case of the Stoughton zoning laws, it was priceless.

Let us know if you’re doing well; let us know if you need advice, legal, professional, or business. It’s all part of your benefits as an AMTA member. We want to hear from you.

John Hughes is a licensed massage therapist on Cape Cod. He resides in Mashpee with his wife and three boys. In his spare time, he volunteers for AMTA and operates a property maintenance company.