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A stop to cash shops mulled

Jan 08 2012

Esquimalt may soon prohibit any more cheque-cashing businesses from setting up shop in the municipality.

Councillors will consider Monday whether to direct staff to prepare the necessary bylaw amendments.

The five existing outlets in Esquimalt would be grandfathered.

The reasoning is that five is enough, Mayor Barb Desjardins said. "The concern has been that we have a number of them. How many of the same service do you need in the same community?" Desjardins said.

The council directed staff to examine restricting new cheque-cashing establishments after the fifth announced its intention to open before the municipal elections last November.

Newly elected Coun. Tim Morrison supports a restriction. "My view of cash-lending stores is that they add no value to communities," he said. "In fact, they devalue communities. It's exactly the kind of business we don't want to be attracting to Esquimalt."

Morrison described the money-lending stores' business model as "ethically challenged."

However, Coun. Meagan Brame, a business owner serving her second term on council, has mixed feelings. Residents are concerned because "you don't want to be seen as a community that requires a lot of cheque-cashing stores," she said.

But, on the other hand, competition can bring out the best in business, she said. "And on the flip side, as a business owner, people tend to go to cheque-cashing companies and then spend the money. If the cheque-cashing company is downtown, they will go downtown, cash their cheque and spend their money there," Brame said.

Esquimalt Chamber of Commerce president Chuck Palmer said the topic will be on the agenda for discussion when its board meets Tuesday.

He does not support such a restriction.

"The marketplace will look after itself. If five is enough, then you're likely not going to see any more," Palmer said.

Desjardins said she does not want the township to be seen as discouraging business. Esquimalt wants to encourage diversity, she said.

But she added: "Clearly, we have this service covered."

Barbara Snyder, Esquimalt's director of development services, has examined how other municipalities have restricted cheque-cashing stores and fastfood outlets.

A prohibition in Esquimalt would essentially be patterned after one in the Township of Langley, where the definition of commercial use in the township's zoning bylaw was amended to specifically exclude cheque-cashing facilities. A definition of such facilities was then added to the bylaw.


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