Esquimalt council won’t cap cash stores

Free-market economic conditions, not council, should dictate commercial activity, say councillors

Moments before Esquimalt council voted not to prevent more cash stores from setting up shop in the township, Coun. Tim Morrison implored his colleagues to not allow the community to continue as “a mecca for money stores.”

But in a five-to-one vote at Monday night’s committee-of-the-whole meeting, council decided against moving forward with the preparation of bylaws to prohibit more than five cheque-cashing and payday-loan businesses from operating in the township.

The majority of councillors said the marketplace, not council, should decide the fate of businesses.

“If our economy changes and things start to pick up and people don’t need that service, (those stores) are going to disappear pretty quick,” said Coun. David Schinbein.

“It’s honest. It’s legal. It’s legitimate. I don’t think we can change that,” said Coun. Lynda Hundleby.

A prohibitive bylaw could set a precedent that could be applied to other business types in future, Schinbein said.

“I fear this opens Pandora’s box in terms of what are the things that we are going to start putting limitations on.”

The issue of cash stores flocking to Esquimalt first emerged last fall when council learned of Money Mart’s plan to move in beside McDonald’s on Esquimalt Road. It became the community’s fifth cash store when it opened earlier this year.

During the initial discussion, some on council expressed disappointment and concern that an abundance of money stores could discourage other businesses from coming to Esquimalt.

Mayor Barb Desjardins also voted against moving the issue forward, but noted a number of other communities, such as Sidney, which allows certain types of businesses to move in on Beacon Avenue, and Central Saanich, which sets out strict commercial design guidelines for Brentwood Bay.

Desjardins hopes the topic will lead to future discussions on how Esquimalt’s commercial sectors can be revitalized with more diversity.