Cash business draws ire in Esquimalt

Council seeks options to encourage business variety, prevent repetition

Esquimalt residents outraged that another payday-loan and cheque-cashing business is preparing to set up shop in the township have found sympathy with municipal council.

“This is … bittersweet,” Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins said during last week’s committee-of-the-whole meeting. “It’s a new business to town, and that’s great, but it’s a business that we have three or four of, and to me that’s disappointing.”

Her reaction was echoed around the room in response to Money Mart’s plans to open by the end of the year in the same building as McDonald’s, at 1149 Esquimalt Rd.

It has applied to the township for permits that would allow it to install new signs and do $200,000 in renovation work at the property. The application was approved, but it still needs to go before council for final consideration.

“I don’t blame staff because there’s nothing there to stop, but to think that there’s (already) a (cheque-cashing store) right up at Head Street just blows my mind,” said Esquimalt resident Muriel Dunn.

Likewise, Tim Morrison, an Esquimalt resident who will be seeking a seat on council in the municipal election, said money-lending businesses such as Money Mart detract from Esquimalt’s value.

“If you could try to make their signage as minimal and insignificant as possible … that’s what I would ask,” he advised council. “We don’t want big neon signs that say ‘Money Mart,’ and ‘This is a cheap community.’”

In a unique move, council took the issue one step further and, in a four-to-two vote, requested staff for a report on measures that could encourage more business variety and limit repetition in the township.

The decision was not supported by councillors Lynda Hundleby and Meagan Brame.

“I have a concern as to how you do this because you could be actually scaring away good business by limiting it,” said Brame.

But Coun. Bruce McIldoon said the report will at least provide council with options.

“What we have now is a little bit of the Wild West mentality – you buy the building and you stick in what you want,” McIldoon said. “There’s got to be a little bit more control than that.”