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Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2008 09:46 pm

Space case

City Council measure would limit payday loan businesses

Ward 7. Ald. Debbie Cimarossa's proposed amendment to limit consumer installment-loan businesses would apply to the entire city, but her sights are set on MacArthur Boulevard, she says.

"MacArthur is the driving force," Cimarossa says. "We want to make MacArthur a more family-friendly, service-oriented corridor. When one leaves, we don't want another one to crop up."

There are already at least five payday-loan businesses on MacArthur Boulevard, she says, and such a concentration doesn't leave any room for more. Cimarossa wants to restrict new businesses to neighborhood commercial and office districts and require 750 feet between them — two proposed zoning changes that will be discussed at a public hearing during the Aug. 20 meeting of the Springfield Planning and Zoning Commission.

They'll also establish a definition for consumer installment-loan businesses to be inserted into the Springfield zoning code. As the businesses continue to pop up, Cimarossa says, a clear definition is needed to separate payday-loan operations from such companies as American General.

"We have finance companies that are being thrown in the mix that are not payday-loan operations, and we don't want to impact them," Cimarossa says. "Payday loans are a whole different picture because of the interest rates they charge."

Steve Brubaker, executive director of the Illinois Small Loan Association, was unavailable for comment by presstime.

Cory Jobe, president of the MacArthur Boulevard Business Association, has been involved with the issue since the beginning and has nothing against the consumer installment-loan businesses (none of which, he says, is a member).

The problem, Jobe says, is that they're too close together, squeezed between Wabash Avenue and Cherry Street.

"What we want to see happen is one certain business not being within a two- to three-block area," Jobe says. "It's oversaturated. Entrepreneurs in niche markets, unique shopping and dining — it's difficult to persuade those developments to come to MacArthur."

That's why 750 feet between new businesses is not enough, Jobe says. Although the MacArthur Boulevard Business Association supports the new changes, he says, they'd rather see that figure doubled or tripled so other businesses can move in and benefit from the area's low rent and high traffic count.

Members of the association will be on hand to discuss the issue at the public hearing, which begins at 6 p.m. in the City Council chambers. Aldermen will consider the proposed change in city zoning rules at the Sept. 17 City Council meeting.

State legislators have also taken an interest in cleaning up the rules that govern payday-loan operations, and several bills intended to tighten the reins on the businesses' lending practices have been introduced [see R. L. Nave, "The payday-loan trap," Aug. 10].

Contact Amanda Robert at arobert@illinoistimes.com.

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