South Jordan • After months of public hearings and deliberation, a payday loan business received City Council approval Tuesday to open up shop in a strip mall near a neighborhood of half-million-dollar homes.
Residents of the Jones Farm subdivision did not go down without a fight — 83 signed on to appeal the Planning Commission’s April approval to grant the Cash Store a conditional use permit for the site at 10384 S. River Heights Drive — near an existing Wal-Mart store.
“We truly believe it will adversely affect our neighborhood, property values and our way of life there,” homeowner Tyler Wilson told the council in early June. “Since this time of Walmart opening, we’ve had two occasions where all the mail has been stolen out of mailboxes — crime is already on the rise.”
Wilson doubts he or his neighbors will use the Cash Store’s services.
“I understand interest rates, and I realize that when I need money I go to an establishment that isn’t like the last-chance stop,” Wilson said, calling it “one shot away from being a loan shark.”
David Frederick of Bedford, Texas, represented the Cash Store at the June 4 council meeting, saying that the 1,200-square-foot business would employ two people and serve an estimated 15 customers per day. Utah has nine such franchises, and there are 312 Cash Stores across seven states.
The business prefers to locate near Wal-Mart or Target stores, Frederick said.
Mayor Scott Osborne said that concerns about protecting residents and consumers spurred the city’s lengthy review.
“It’s troublesome to have a business that can charge up to 535 percent interest annually,” Osborne said. “Interest rates this high could be considered predatory.”
Resident Paul Hammer agreed.
“People find themselves backed into a corner and other people find a way to service those folks with ‘usurious’ interest rates,” Hammer said, noting that Utah has no statute regarding usury.
South Jordan has two short-term lenders, and an ordinance that mandates at least 1 mile between such businesses. The council had no legal grounds to deny the business, so it unanimously approved the Cash Store’s request with several conditions that included limited hours of operation, and no pawn-brokerage services, no cash for gold or precious metals, and no transactions related to secondhand merchandise or vehicles.
Councilman Chuck Newton voiced concerns about the Cash Store’s site selection.
“It was obvious they hadn’t really done their research,” Newton said. “They told us they target areas where incomes are $50,000 to $60,000, and the incomes there are $200,000 to $500,000 — the median income in South Jordan is $104,000.”