Liberty voters to decide on limiting payday loan places

LIBERTY — Voters in Liberty will vote Nov. 5 on a ballot question about adding a short-term lending code and permitting fee to the city’s ordinances.

The request for this effort came from a citizen petition that was received April 18. The petition seeks to amend the city code as it pertains to payday and title loan businesses in the city.

The Northland Justice Coalition has been the driving force behind the effort. The nonpartisan group has been meeting for a couple years to discuss race in the Northland. The group took on the issue of payday loans prior to the April election. Canvassing took place at polling places to garner the necessary signatures to create an ability for the city to limit payday loans.

“We are concerned with the predatory lending practices of these businesses and how they prey on the community’s vulnerable citizens,” said one of the petitioners, Abby Zavos. She was joined by AJ Byrd, Dale Herrick and Michael Begnaud, speaking of the hardships that payday loans can cause residents.

Assistant City Clerk Janet Pittman said the 1,270 valid signatures that were turned into the Clay County Election Board met the requirements and legal counsel review. She verified the valid petition early this month, which allowed the issue to go before the Liberty City Council.

In conjunction, Director of Planning & Development Katherine Sharp has been working with the council to formulate the necessary language for the city ordinance.

While the council could have voted on the ordinance, there is the action to create a permit fee that needs voter approval, according to state statute.

The proposed short-term lending code would add to the city code, if approved, a prohibition on short-term loan establishments from being located within one mile of another short-term business; and would mandate no short-term loan location shall be within 200 feet of houses, churches, parks or school property. In addition, the loan places would be limited to one per 15,000 residents based on the last census.

There is also the request to see permitting fees for the short-term loan establishments. All existing and new applicants shall be $5,000 per year or $2,500 if less than six months remain in the calendar year on the date a permit was issued.

The council voted 6-0 to move this in front of voters.

Councilman Harold Phillips said he is pleased to see the effort moving forward.

“It has been a true grassroots effort to see this,” he said.

Southeast Editor Kellie Houx can be reached at kellie.houx@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6630.

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