After more than a half hour of debate and discussion, the Lawrenceville City Council voted not to allow the rezoning of a parcel of land for a pawnshop at Monday’s meeting.
Premier Pawn and Jewelry lobbied for the rezoning to allow their business—designated by the city as a small financial institution—to open a location at 626 Grayson Highway.
Representatives for Premier Pawn and Jewelry argued that although “pawn” is in the name, their stores are not pawnshops, but instead operate as small lenders.
"Our company performs a very worthwhile and much needed service to our community,” said David Johns, Vice President of Premier Pawn and Jewelry before the council. He added his stores provide a great service to the unbanked.
Lawrenceville residents voiced their concerns about another pawnshop coming to town.
“I worry about the perception, that Lawrenceville will appear low rent," said Mary Thompson.
Thompson admitted her family was the victim of a robbery in the last few years. Many items stolen from her home ended up at pawnshops. She asked Johns how they are going to make sure stolen goods do not end up in their stores.
Johns assured the mayor and council that every measure is taken to prevent crime at their locations. With every transaction, they take fingerprints and a photo of the seller and every day send reports of items to the police.
Premier’s representatives asked the mayor and council to reference their store at Pleasant Hill Road and Club Drive in unincorporated Lawrenceville. Johns stated that and all their stores are more like small department stores than pawnshops. In response to this, Mayor Judy Johnson asked why their customers could not just visit their location outside the city limits.
David Mellard, President of Lawrenceville Neighborhood Alliance also addressed the mayor and council in opposition of allowing the new business. He asked the local politicians to consider their 2030 plan and the projects in the works to improve the city like the Lawrenceville Lawn and improvements to the Five Forks corridor.
"When things come up like this, you have to look at is this in the plan or is it not. And this is not." said Mellard.
The City of Lawrenceville’s Planning Commission unanimously recommended denial of the Special Use Permit application. After much discussion, the City Council voted 4-0 to follow the Planning Commission’s recommendations.
"The problem for me is just across the street is a principle housing complex," said Councilman Tony Powell after the vote. “It's an area we're trying to re-establish as a residential area.”
Powell noted that there are already a number pawnshops and cash checking places within a stone’s throw of the proposed location for Premier. He does not want to inundate residents with those kinds of businesses.
“You can find another place that suits you, just not in that location in our city," concluded Powell.
Discussion about another small financial institution was also on Monday’s agenda. Equity Auto Loan, an auto title pawn business, is seeking to rezone a parcel of land at 455 Grayson 20. The applicant requested the item be tabled until the September meeting, and the council voted to do so.
--What do you think about the council's decision? Should new pawn shops and title loan businesses be allowed in the City of Lawrenceville or are there too many already? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.