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updated: 7/2/2013 5:53 PM

Wheeling OKs car title loan company

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The Wheeling Village Board Monday reversed its decision from the previous meeting and will allow a short-term car title loan company to move into a small rehabbed shopping center on Dundee Road just east of Route 83.

TitleMax will be the first title loan company in the village, according to a village staff memo, and officials from James Ruffatto, chairman of the Plan Commission, to Village President Dean Argiris expressed distaste for a business that charges what are considered high interest rates.

While the rate of 36 percent was referred to at the May Plan Commission meeting, a national study by two consumer groups, including the Center for Responsible Lending, said Illinois is a state with no interest rate limit on title loans, and that can result in annual rates in triple digits.

Argiris said the willingness to pay high rates shows that borrowers are desperate.

Argiris said Tuesday the issue failed on a 3-3 vote June 17 because Trustee Ray Lang was absent. The village president said he told trustees before Monday's meeting that the property owner, Zachor Property Group LLC, would return with a new plan for the loan company to rent half the vacant 4,380 square feet at 755 W. Dundee Road. The site formerly housed an Ace Hardware store and now has an Advance Auto Parts store.

At the smaller size, no variance from the number of parking spaces would be needed, and Argiris said he thought the board would be obligated to grant a special use. At that point the two businesses using the building would legally require all the parking spaces, and the property owners would never get rent from the remaining 2,000 square feet.

The landlord has been trying to rent the space for two years, according to documents filed with the village, and Larry Freedman, a Chicago attorney representing Zachor, said at earlier meetings that most allowed uses would generate more parking issues than the loan company. He also said zoning laws are not designed to prohibit legal businesses that some people do not like.

Argiris said he believes the loan company would not need the existing 16 parking places, even though under code it should have 31.

"You have to use common sense," said Argiris. "They are good developers."

Argiris said the number of parking spaces required for such a financial institution should be reduced, but the board might also decide that a main commercial corridor is not the best place for a short-term loan office. The code could be changed to restrict future companies to areas zoned for light industrial, as are pawn shops, he said.

These facts were not explained at Monday's meeting. Trustee David Vogel, who had voted against the business two weeks earlier, moved to reconsider the action based on new information.

However, halfway through the votes Trustee Kenneth Brady, who had also opposed the business, asked what the new information was.

Mark Janeck, director of community development, said the owners indicated they would reduce the amount of square footage the loan company would use for an office, but had filed no new paperwork.

Village Attorney James V. Ferolo said the board's reconsideration must deal with the exact same request that was rejected. If the business owner wanted to use half the space originally proposed, a new application and a new Plan Commission hearing would be required.

Brady and Vogel cast the only no votes Tuesday against the special use, with Robert Herr changing his vote from the June meeting.

The Wheeling Plan Commission voted against the variances for the loan company.

The ordinance passed requires the company to prominently post loan payments and terms and samples of late payments and maximum amounts. TitleMax representatives filed papers that said the location would expect four new customers a day who would require under 30 minutes each, and eventually 40 to 50 clients a day would each spend five minutes paying their bills. A village staff memo said those 40 to 50 visitors per day could cause parking issues if they were concentrated during certain hours.

TitleMax of Illinois has 50 offices in the state, including sites in Mount Prospect, Palatine and Schaumburg.

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