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January 10, 2013

Zoning board to hear appeal

GREENVILLE — A local financial business is arguing against being classified by the City of Greenville as an “alternative financial service.”

The Zoning Board of Adjustment is scheduled to conduct a public hearing tonight concerning an appeal filed by Action Finance Incorporated, which is seeking to move from its downtown Greenville location to a site on Wesley Street.

The hearing is set during the board’s regular called session at 5:30 p.m. in the Municipal Building, 2821 Washington Street.

Attorney Joe E. Weis is representing Action Finance in the appeal of the decision by the City of Greenville to classify the company, currently at 2705 Lee Street, as an “Alternative Financial Service”, specifically as a business that engages in non-traditional short-term lending.

City of Greenville Chief Building Official Steve Methven, in a memo to the Zoning Board, said that the board is being asked to determine whether the “Alternative Financial Services” designation is appropriate for Action Finance.

“Action Finance is in the business of offering loans to individuals without collateral,” Methven said. “They are not a pay day lender or a check cashing business. They are also not a depository institution. They lend money at interest rates that exceed ten (10) percent (i.e. usurious interest rates according to the Texas Finance Commission) and they are not regulated by the Texas Finance Commission as institutions such as Bank of America and Chase Bank are.”

City officials have been debating the zoning classification of “Alternative Financial Services” AFS for more than two years.

In 2010, in response to the proliferation of the businesses along the Wesley Street general retail corridor. The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended a 1,000 foot separation requirement for AFS businesses, allowing them by right in general retail, highway retail, commercial, and industrial.

The City Council modified the Commission’s recommendation and removed general and highway retail from the list of zoning districts allowed, also eliminating nonconforming AFS businesses whenever a new Certificate of Occupancy was requested.

In early 2011, the Commission and Council enacted an ordinance regulating alternative personal services such as tattoo parlors and fortune tellers. At that time, the Commission recommended that alternative financial service businesses be required to obtain Conditional Use Permits rather than allowing them by right.

In January 2012, the Council turned down a request by a loan company which was seeking a change in zoning for the building which once housed the former Braum’s store.

The Zoning Board of Adjustment (BOA) is a five-member quasi-judicial board appointed by the City Council whose primary responsibility is to hear and review requests for variances and appeals on matters related to the City of Greenville Zoning Ordinance. It is not a legislative body and does not have authority to amend ordinances or create new laws.

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