Esquimalt council treads carefully before restricting cash enterprises

Need for more information stalls decision-making process

Esquimalt council is taking baby steps to prevent more money-loaning and cheque-cashing businesses from coming to the township.

“These types of businesses do not add value to our community,” Coun. Tim Morrison said at a recent committee-of-the-whole meeting.

“We want to build a community where our citizens don’t fall prey to these kinds of businesses on a frequent basis, and on a very vulnerable basis.”

The turning point for council came last fall when it learned a Money Mart planned to move in beside McDonald’s restaurant at 1149 Esquimalt Rd., the fifth cash business on the main thoroughfare.

As the News reported, council asked staff to explore creating a zoning bylaw that targets cash businesses.

But some councillors said the free-market economy will regulate the number of cash businesses.

“Competition is not necessarily a bad thing,” said Coun. Meagan Brame.

Brame, Mayor Barb Desjardins and Coun. Lynda Hundleby favoured postponing the vote until the Esquimalt Chamber of Commerce could offer input, which the rest of council eventually agreed on.

The president of the Canadian Payday Loan Association has also asked to speak to council before a decision is made.

Council’s postponement disappointed Esquimalt resident Muriel Dunn.

“I’m very disappointed to think it would not be unanimous to think that five is enough,” she said. “We’ve got enough.”

Esquimalt is looking to other B.C. municipalities that have tackled the proliferation of cheque-cashing businesses and fast-food restaurants to create more commercial diversity.

Langley, Tofino, Ladysmith, Qualicum, Abbotsford and Central Saanich all have different rules. Sidney, for example, allows certain business types to move in on Beacon Avenue, its main street.

In the event a new bylaw is created, cash businesses already operating in Esquimalt would be allowed to stay, according to a staff report.