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McHenry City Council denies TitleMax move

Published: Monday, Oct. 21, 2013 9:50 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Oct. 21, 2013 11:35 p.m. CDT

McHENRY – In a 4-3 decision, the McHenry City Council said no to TitleMax moving into a vacant West Elm Street property.

The lot at 4405 W. Elm St. is located in a zoning district that does not allow financial institutions, so TitleMax – which provides small, short-term loans using vehicle titles as collateral – needed a variance to move in.

The city's Planning and Zoning Commission had voted unanimously to recommend approval of the variance, but staff disagreed, saying it does not believe the property presents a hardship that would prevent another type of business, one allowed under zoning ordinances, to operate there.

The zoning restriction had been adopted in 2004 because of concerns that banks, which don't generate sales tax, would take prime commercial spots, Deputy City Administrator Doug Martin said.

The council had OK'd a variance at another property on the same stretch of West Elm Street for a similar business a year ago, according to council documents.

That property, located at 4509 W. Elm St., is narrower and has a greater setback from the road, the council documents said. It also had been vacant for several years.

The property TitleMax was hoping to move into has been vacant for less than a year, and in the past 10 years, six restaurants have operated at the site, property owner Bernie Matchen said.

"That concerns me because if another one comes in, is it going to last for two years or 25?" said Alderman Victor Santi, who voted for the variance. "It will probably go toward the lower number just because for some reason, they just haven't survived there."

The narrowness of the property also makes it difficult for a fast-food restaurant to fit a drive-thru there, and other types of businesses would have trouble fitting the necessary parking, said Mark Daniel, an attorney representing TitleMax.

Alderman Andy Glab, who voted no, said he didn't see TitleMax fitting into the comprehensive plan, which is the "plan for the future" that foresees "a lot of development that will be going west of town" on that Route 120 corridor.

"I'd like to see a business in there, but I don't want to just see [us] slap anything in there just to fill the building," Glab said.

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