The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

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October 14, 2012

Planning Commission to again review alternative financial services ordinance

GREENVILLE — The Greenville Planning and Zoning Commission is being asked, again, to consider changes in a controversial city ordinance which regulates where certain businesses can locate.

Last month, the members of the Commission said they saw no reason to tinker with the ordinance which limits where alternative financial services (AFS) can open in Greenville.

But Mayor Steve Reid has asked the commission to take another look, as he believes the regulations are too restrictive.

Reid has been invited to attend Monday’s regular session of the Commission, which starts at 5:30 p.m. in the Municipal Building, 2821 Washington Street.

During September’s meeting of the Commission, Chairman George Gregg said he did not agree with Reid’s contention that the ordinance concerning payday and auto title loan companies can open was too limiting.

“Between Traders Road and Joe Ramsey there are 19 of them,” Gregg said. “To my way of thinking, that’s plenty. The ordinance as written has served us well.”

Local residents joined current and former members of the City Council in agreeing with the Commission.

In 2010, in response to the proliferation of the businesses along the Wesley Street general retail corridor, the 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 high 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 of this year, 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.

William C. Pruett had asked for a change in zoning from general retail for the building at 4206 Wesley Street, which is where he wanted to open Greenville Cash Express, listed under city ordinances as an alternative financial service. Pruett said there appeared to be a bias among city leaders against his business and similar operations.

At the time, City Planner Lance Estep said he did not recommend the change because the zone change would violate the existing city ordinance and if approved could be considered spot zoning.

Reid is asking that more flexibility be allowed in the ordinance, to allow the Commission and Council to review the businesses on a case by base basis in the general retail zoning district.

In a memo to the Commission, Estep said the members should be prepared to discuss their reasoning during Monday’s meeting.

“Since the enactment of the AFS Ordinance and its subsequent modifications, City staff has had to turn away several of these types of businesses wishing to locate along Wesley Street,” Estep said. “Those businesses either chose to locate in another municipality or they chose to comply with the Ordinance. Commissioners, please review the attachments and be prepared to discuss whether you agree with modifying the ordinance, and if so in what ways you would like to modify it.”

No action concerning the ordinance is scheduled as part of Monday’s meeting.

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