Reynoldsburg City Council has blocked a zoning appeal that would have allowed an auto pawnbroker to set up shop on East Main Street.
"If it walks like a duck and looks like a duck, it's a duck," Councilman Mel Clemens said.
Four council members -- Clemens, Barth Cotner, Chris Long and Monica DeBrock -- met Aug. 14 to hear representatives from TitleMax ask for a special exception-use permit to lease a building at 6471 E. Main St., formerly a Carquest auto parts store.
TitleMax representatives said the business is a "credit service organization," not an auto pawnbroker, even though it loans money to clients and uses car titles as collateral.
Clemens said a company that loans money, then repossesses cars when someone can't pay that money back, is an auto pawnbroker.
"Under our ordinance, it could be considered a pawn shop," he said. "We all agreed on that and voted it down."
Clemens said the vote Aug. 14 was 4-0 to turn down the appeal. Council members Leslie Kelly, Cornelius McGrady and Scott Barrett were were absent from the meeting, as was council President Doug Joseph.
Clemens said it didn't matter what the company called itself nor did the fact that it would not store the repossessed cars at the East Main Street location.
"They said they do resell the cars, but that they would not store them on the premises, which may be true, but we do not allow any kind of pawnbroker in that area," he said.
The TitleMax appeal came before council because members of the Reynoldsburg Board of Zoning and Building Appeals could not agree to accept the zoning certificate application at a July 18 meeting. With three members present, David Stoffel voted no, Anthony Rettke voted yes and Bonnie Armintrout abstained.
One no vote and one abstention meant the zoning certificate application did not pass the BZBA, according to planning adviser Justin Robbins.
"One of the powers of the board of zoning is it can let the city council decide on a zoning certificate," Robbins said. "The applicant is allowed 30 days to appeal the decision, which it did."
Robbins said the zoning allowed in that area of East Main Street, which is in the Community Commercial overlay district, is for business or administrative uses. He said at the BZBA meeting that according to city code, any business that engages in pawn-brokering must be 1,000 feet away from schools, day cares and any establishments serving alcohol.
"This particular property, within 1,000 feet there are, I think, at least two day cares and at least one establishment serving alcohol," Robbins said at the meeting, according to the posted minutes.
David Darby, an attorney with Cooperman Gillespie, represented the owner of the property, GBS Main LLC, along with Todd Dillon, an agent consultant for the owner, at the July 18 BZBA meeting.
Dillon said at that meeting he did not believe the TitleMax operations should be considered pawnbrokering. He also pointed out that LoanMax, at 1840 Brice Road, was a similar business in Reynoldsburg and was issued a zoning certificate in 2012.
According to the BZPA minutes, when he was asked what happens if an individual defaults on a loan from TitleMax, Dillon said a lien would be placed on the car title and if the client is not able to bring the loan current, then TitleMax would take possession of the vehicle.