Rock Hill City Council members gave final approval this week to new regulations that they hope will curb the growth of alternative lenders in some of the city’s busiest business districts.
The new rules aim to make it harder for pawn shops to open in many areas of Rock Hill and will keep other alternative lending businesses – such as title loan or pay day loan companies – from locating within 1,000 feet of pawn shops.
Existing pawn shops in the city will be allowed to stay open and owners have a two-year window to expand their shop without being held to the new standards.
Council members unanimously approved the rules on Monday night without debate.
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New pawn shops will not be allowed to locate within 300 feet of homes, churches, schools or parks. City regulations also will now require that pawn shops only open in “multi-tenant” retail areas of at least 30,000 square feet, such as shopping centers, or locate inside large businesses, such as grocery stores.
Rock Hill planning officials tackled the issue of new pawn shop rules after they say they received multiple complaints from other businesses and residents about the proliferation of alternative lending companies in the city, particularly along Cherry Road. City officials have said that Rock Hill is probably attractive to those lending businesses because of the strict state regulations in nearby North Carolina.
The issue was timely, officials said, because City Hall had heard from at least three prospective pawn shop owners hoping to open up in Rock Hill soon.
Public comment was solicited but no business owners or residents complained about the new rules during a March Planning Commission meeting or this week’s City Council meeting.
Officials with the South Carolina Pawnbrokers Association have said Rock Hill’s new rules for the pawn industry are unfair. Pawn advocates argue that pawn shops serve an immediate need in communities for people who do not have checking or savings accounts or need to secure small, quick loans not typically given by banks.
Some local pawn shop owners and the state association took issue with Rock Hill’s grouping of pawn shops with businesses such as pay day lending establishments, saying that pawn shops should be considered a retail business, not an alternative lending company.