Alderman Debbie Cimarossa, working in conjunction with the MacArthur Boulevard Business Association (MBBA), last fall introduced an ordinance to the city council that would have required payday lenders to be located at least 1,500 feet (approximately three blocks) apart. It grandfathered existing businesses, but the MBBA felt that the ordinance would have been one means to help prevent the further proliferation of payday lenders on MacArthur.
The Illinois Payday Loan Reform Act of 2005 attempted to place restrictions on what had previously been an essentially unregulated industry, but still allows payday lenders to charge interest rates of up to 429 percent. While the law limits the number of loans that can be active at a given time, lenders often circumvent this restriction by making a loan to another member of the same household. Consumers unable to repay the exorbitant interest rates associated with these loans find themselves in a vicious cycle.
The ordinance was narrowly defeated by a 5 to 4 city council vote, and not
coincidentally, the aldermen who voted against the ordinance do not live in
parts of the city with payday lenders. Perhaps it is difficult for them to
understand the challenges that the MBBA faces when trying to recruit new
businesses, who are often discouraged by the overwhelming number of payday
lenders located prominently along MacArthur. While MacArthur is bordered by
strong neighborhoods and schools that reflect higher than average income
levels, one would never guess it by driving down the main thoroughfare.
While some opponents may argue that one type of business is being singled out,
the reality is that the city governs zoning all the time, and seeks to insure
that businesses locate in appropriate areas. As Mayor Tim Davlin pointed out at
the Sept. 16 council meeting, the council voted favorably 14 times to govern
zoning immediately prior to this ordinance coming up for a vote. There are
restrictions on facilities that serve alcohol, adult entertainment and even
drive-thru windows. A fast food restaurant cannot locate in a residential
neighborhood, nor an office building in an industrial district. All businesses
must comply with regulations. This is merely one way to help insure a diverse
mix of businesses that serve surrounding neighborhoods.
The payday loan ordinance has been reintroduced, and will come up for a vote
again at the Jan. 21 meeting. We urge the city council to support the passage
of this ordinance, as it helps protect both the citizens of Springfield and the
quality of business districts and neighborhoods.
Michelle Higginbotham is a Commercial Realtor with Coldwell Banker Commercial Devonshire Realty. She serves as vice-chair of the MacArthur Boulevard Business Association.