An effort by Coun. Sergio Morales to limit payday loan establishments along Dunlop Street in the downtown morphed into something larger.
On Monday, Barrie city councillors rubber-stamped a motion that staff investigates the feasibility of licensing payday loan establishments under the general business licensing bylaw to restrict their number and concentration throughout the city and report back to council.
As well, staff will review the minimum distance separation provisions for payday loan, body piercing, pawn shops and tattoo parlours in downtown and report back as part of the review of the zoning bylaw.
At council general committee on Sept. 13, Coun. Gary Harvey noted the issue of payday outlets extended beyond the downtown.
“We all have areas in our wards that are of all different socio-economic levels where these particular types of storefronts along with rent-to-owns specifically target middle-to-lower income earners,” said Harvey. “The less we have in our neighbourhoods, I think the better off all of our neighbourhoods will be.”
“The last thing we want to see is a bunch of these clustered in any one of our wards. I don’t know that any of our wards don’t have at least one if not two of these establishments.
What Morales sought in his original motion was to have city staff report back regarding the restriction of payday loan establishments along Dunlop Street when Barrie councillors considered the updated zoning bylaw.
Coun. Keenan Aylwin also wanted to take the matter beyond the downtown.
“These establishments provide loans with exorbitant interest rates, and they often disproportionately harm vulnerable people, “Aylwin explained, during discussion at general committee last Monday. “They tend to be clustered in lower income neighbourhoods or neighbourhoods where there may be more poverty. It’s a thing we should be looking at not only to help vulnerable people but also in terms of economic development.”
“These establishments don’t add much to a neighbourhood or our downtown. I think it’s time we put some restrictions in place.”
Also at that meeting, Aylwin reminded council that municipalities were given the power by the province to restrict payday loan outlets in 2018.
Morales felt some councillors were getting away from what the intent of his motion was.
At general committee last week, he emphasized the discussion about the morality of these businesses was not the discussion he was trying to have right now. Morales said his focus was to restrict payday outlets solely on Dunlop Street.
City staff, in response to a question from Mayor Jeff Lehman last Monday about whether a certain business could be restricted on a single street, he was told no.
“There is a separation distance and restricting this particular use on one street is something, from a professional planning opinion, it would be difficult to bring forward to council,” explained Michelle Banfield, Barrie’s director of development services, at last week’s general committee meeting.
The motion before city council on Sept. 20 passed without further discussion.