Neighborhoods show up to oppose payday loan proposal

The 1700 block of Westport Road, where neighbors are fighting a proposed payday loan establishment.

The 1700 block of Westport Road, where neighbors are fighting a proposed payday loan establishment.

Neighborhoods showed up in force yesterday at City Hall to object to a proposed payday loan business on Westport Road, but didn’t get a chance to express their concerns before the Board of Zoning Adjustment.

The BZA agreed to a continuance of the case as it explores whether it even has the jurisdiction to grant the variance the business would need to operate.

The application came from the Jason Marketing Group, which hoped to open a payday loan business in a newly-remodeled building at 1711 Westport Road, just across the street from the Immanuel Lutheran Church. Under a city limit on the minimum distance between short-term loan establishments, it was asking for a zoning variance because there was another such business two blocks away.

But before considering the variance, the BZA heard from an attorney for nearby business owners who questioned whether the board even has the authority to grant such a variance.

If it is determined that Jason would need need a use variance, the project could not go forward because the BZA cannot authorize such a variance.  If what is required is a non-use variance, Patricia Jensen said, the neighboring property owners she represents would object to variances needed for parking and a requirement that short-term loan businesses must be the primary use of a building.

“There are a number of issues that need to be explored,” Jensen said.

Several dozen individuals and  residents of the Volker, West Plaza and other neighborhoods went to city hall to oppose the project. Joe Montanari, president of West Plaza, said his neighborhood board objected both on moral grounds and because “the presence of a short-term loan business would be deleterious to the nearby businesses.”

“For these reasons, and because not one resident had contacted us to express support of such a business at the location, the board voted unanimously to register its adamant opposition to the establishment of a short-term loan business at 1711 Westport Road,” he stated in prepared testimony that he didn’t get to present.

If the proposal moves forward, it will be on the Feb. 9 docket for BZA consideration.

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