Joliet city council rejects title loan business
Rex Robinson | 11/5/2013, 10:57 a.m. | Updated on 11/6/2013, 8:25 a.m.
A shuttered fish and chips fast food restaurant near a residential neighborhood in Joliet will have to stay that way a bit longer.
Facing strong opposition from community leaders and residents, the Joliet City Council Monday unanimously rejected a special use permit for a title loan business at 1606 W. Jefferson St.
The Joliet Zoning Board of Appeals had previously voted 4-3 against developer Jerry Cairo’s plans for a TitleMax of Illinois at the location.
The building has been vacant since early 2012 and has become “an eyesore,” according to Joliet City Manager Tom Thanas.
However, Mac Willis, president of the Unity Community Development Corporation non-profit group for Districts 4 and 5 in Joliet, said TitleMax is not welcome in the neighborhood.
“I stand here tonight representing 11 neighborhood organizations,” Willis said.
Willis had previously sent a letter to Mayor Tom Giarrante signed by the heads of neighborhood organizations requesting the city council reject the special use permit for TitleMax.
The neighborhood organizations, Willis added, also want the city council to reinstate a moratorium on title loan shops, gold buyers, pawn shops and other like businesses.
“It’s no surprise these enterprises target low income people and they generally claim they fill a need such people have for easy and quick credit that is typically not offered by more conventional lenders,” Willis said.
The fact, he added, is that these types of loans come at a high cost.
“The end result is less money and even more debt for their customers and our community,” Willis said.
Joliet, he added, has enough predatory lenders “buzzing around our neighborhoods.”
Cairo said TitleMax does provide a service some people might find beneficial in an emergency situation, and likened it to someone using a credit card when their car breaks down. TitleMax, he added, is a reputable business with 1,200 stores nationwide. Cairo presented the city council with signatures from people in the area who are in support of plans for the business.
However, Councilwoman Jan Quillman pointed out that most of the signatures were not from area residents, but from other businesses. Quillman said the city should not be settling for just any business to fill a vacant storefront.
Councilman Jim McFarland agreed. He said the city should be trying to attract quality businesses to Joliet.
Giarrante said he checked on the internet and couldn’t even find the interest rate TitleMax charges for the loans.