For the second month in a row, the Lawrenceville City Council unanimously voted down a proposed small financial institution.
With a vote of 4-0, the council denied approval for InstaLoan to open up shop at 1124 Lawrenceville Highway.
The company already has a location inside the city limits at 465 W. Pike Street, but executives hoped to open a second location in the Ingles shopping center. InstaLoan is part of TMX Finance, a Savannah based company that also owns TitleMax, TitleBucks and EquityAuto Loan. There are currently two TitleMax locations in the City of Lawrenceville as well.
"There may be other businesses out there that may be suspect,” said InstaLoan’s Senior Vice President of Operations Doug Marohn to the council and Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson. “We make sure that we have a positive image in the community. You'll find men dressed in suits and ties, shirts and ties. Women in normal business attire."
Marohn also noted InstaLoan has reasonable operating hours, and not 24 hours like some title pawn shops. He also made clear that the interest rates are 10 percent—much lower than predatory lenders.
Lawrenceville resident Mary Thompson came to the city council meeting with a map pointing out the 19 businesses called small financial institutions in and near the City of Lawrenceville—many of them along the main entryways in to the heart of the city on Pike Street, Buford Drive and Grayson Highway.
"The first impression someone could get could be a negative one," said Thompson in opposition.
Emily Powell is president of the Cramac Plantation Homeowners Association—a subdivision located within walking distance of the proposed site. Powell believes no matter what the interest rates, or business practices, InstaLoan still looks like a title pawn shop and she does not want it in her neighborhood.
"I don't think Lawrenceville has the obligation to provide easy loans for their citizens,” said Mrs. Powell. "There's a reason why those title places are in Lawrenceville. We need to figure out why that is and we need to turn and flee the other way,” she added.
After more than thirty minutes of arguments and rebuttal, Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson called for a vote.
"I think right now that it's not the right place, not the right time for this,” said Councilman P.K. Martin before making a motion to deny the request.
Councilman Tony Powell quickly seconded the motion. “We're actually going in the other direction," said Powell agreeing with Martin. "It's just not the right place."
Both Powell and Beiser commended Marohn for his presentation and appreciated his business practices. Powell contrasted InstaLoan’s interest rate to the 25 percent interest rate of Premier Pawn and Jewelry who came before the council last month. Their request to open a store on Grayson Highway was also unanimously rejected.
"We just have a great number (of small financial institutions) and I'm sure our citizens can be served at the (InstaLoan) Pike St. location just as well,” said Beiser before Mayor Johnson called for a vote.
The council unanimously voted down the request.
Next on the agenda was a proposal for an EquityAuto Loan at 455 Grayson Highway. The applicant sent the city a letter of withdrawal. The council voted 4-0 to accept their withdrawal.
Want to see how the discussion played out in real time? Or want to see the outcome of another issue? Click here to view a replay Lawrenceville Patch’s live coverage of Wednesday’s City Council meeting.
What do you think? Did the council do the right thing by denying the request? Or is the city blocking new businesses from coming to the area? Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below.