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Esquimalt delays decision on limiting instant-loan stores

Jan 10 2012

Esquimalt councillors have delayed taking any action that would prohibit more cash stores from setting up shop in the municipality.

And it appears the majority of councillors favour letting the market decide how many instant- loan stores are enough, rather than taking regulatory action.

At council's request, municipal staff reviewed how a number of different municipalities have restricted cash stores and fast- food outlets after a fifth money- store outlet announced last fall that it was setting up shop in Esquimalt.

The report recommended that the township amend its zoning bylaw to prohibit future outlets from opening. The existing five outlets would be grandfathered.

Newly elected Coun. Tim Morrison, who had campaigned for a restriction, argued in favour of the staff recommendation.

He said the prohibition is not "anti-business" but that five such stores for a municipality of 17,000 are enough.

"These types of businesses do not add value to the community. They devalue our community," Morrison said.

Mayor Barb Desjardins said the Esquimalt Chamber of Commerce will discuss the issue tonight. She said she had also heard from a representative of the industry who wanted to address council on the issue, so she suggested waiting until then to make a decision.

Esquimalt chamber president Chuck Palmer said he prefers letting the marketplace decide.

Coun. Robert McKie said council could be "opening a whole can of worms up" by restricting the cash shops.

"I'm not particularly in favour of money marts or cash stores or whatever you want to call them, but they are a business. They're a business that will bring some revenue into this municipality," he said.

"Are we going to start passing bylaws that say we can only have so many shoe stores in Esquimalt or we can only have so many banks?"

Coun. David Schinbein said he visited a cash store and spoke to people using it.

"The people that were there needed to use that service, plain and simple. For whatever reasons in their economic life, they needed to use that service and I don't feel comfortable at all passing any bylaw or recommendation that would disenfranchise any members of our community. I have a strong feeling that that is just not the right thing to do," Schinbein said.

Realizing that if a vote were taken, it would fail, Morrison suggested the item be tabled pending further input.

The 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 exclude cheque-cashing facilities. A definition of such facilities was then added to the bylaw.

The City of Langley, meanwhile, created a specific commercial zone that permits a cheque-cashing business, provided that it is located in a shopping centre where customer access to and from the premises is restricted to an enclosed pedestrian mall. The provision effectively restricts money stores from fronting onto a street.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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