AustinTalks | Galewood’s pawnshop meeting heats up
The ongoing fight for another pawnshop on North Avenue continued at a lively Galewood community meeting on Tuesday night.
Ald. Deborah Graham (29th) called the meeting at the Galewood Community Church in response to a wave of community opposition to an EZ Pawn store just west of Narragansett Avenue.
Francine Salerno, a resident of Galewood, said the alderman had treated the community of Galewood with “great disrespect” by not holding a meeting so far.
“You pushed this down our throats, ignored us, made us intangible,” Salerno said.
Graham gave her pledge to residents, saying she would not endorse any future local business before receive the community’s contribution.
“I’m a community person like you,” Graham said. “I love my community just like you, and we can only move forward at this point.”
In January, the Chicago Zoning Appeal Board voted 3-1 to approve the EZ pawn store to fill a vacant storefront in a mall next to Austin Bank of Chicago, 6400 W. North Ave.
EZ Pawn is expected to be the fifth pawnbroker clustered along North Avenue near Ridgeland and Hayes avenues.
The pawnshop is in Ald. Nicolas sposato 36th Ward, but that will be on Graham’s territory once the new Ward Map, which was approved last year, goes into full effect in 2015.
Sposato, who opposes the store, told Austin after last month’s zoning council decision that he plans to appeal.
Courageous residents, who say another pawnshop will have a negative impact on the community, often interrupted Graham and representatives of EZ Pawn and ABC Bank at the meeting.
Graham said she has drafted an order, with help from Sposato, that will put a freeze on other pawn shops in the area. The ordinance would not allow a special use permit, she added.
“We don’t trust you,” Donald Glover, the Galewood CAPS community liaison officer for Police Beat 2513, shouted at Graham.
Beth Chlumecky, another resident, asked Graham, “Has EZ Pawn contributed to your campaign?”
Graham said no. EZ Pawn did not comment in response to Chlumecky’s question.
Alderman reports no contribution EZ Pawn or EZCorp on campaign fundraising reports she has filed since becoming a city councilor in March 2010.
Residents took beatings on the alderman, accusing her of being behind their backs when she wrote a letter of support to the city in July for a special permit for the pawnshop.
Graham said she had spoken with Sposato on several occasions and that he was “fully aware” of her letter. But some people present at the meeting shouted, “This is not true.”
“You can’t speak for Ald. Sposato when he and I are talking to city council, ”she said. “You can not do this.”
Graham said she is not advocating more pawn shops in the region. But she was persuaded to support EZ Pawn after ABC Bank approached her, saying she needed a flagship store, which had been vacant for five years, she said.
Graham said the bank told him it would be difficult for a small business to fill the large space or pay for the renovation, and EZ Pawn, who was in contact with the bank, might be appropriate for the site.
ABC Bank CEO Sam Scott said the bank had been trying to rent the space it owns for years and the vacancy was a “financial drain”.
He said the bank appreciates residents’ concerns, but does not necessarily share them.
“We don’t think (EZ Pawn) is going to be a problem,” Scott said, adding that the bank had “done their homework” and thought about it a lot.
The crowd often interrupted Scott and a few people shouted that they would withdraw their money from ABC Bank.
Oak Park resident Judith Alexander asked Graham if she would commit to the community and approve another special zoning permit without talking to the community first.
“Going forward, we will come together to bring the type of businesses we are looking for on North Avenue,” Graham said. “You have my commitment”
Neal Wankoff, member of the Galewood Residents Organization who blogs at Galewood.net, said there were over 7,000 homes in Galewood.
“Each of us has made a financial commitment to this community,” he said. “A fifth pawnshop will not improve the value of our house or improve it.”
Tim Adams, regional manager for the Midwest for publicly traded company EZCorp, said the company is “tightly regulated” and will be a responsible trading operator.
Adams provided attendees with a list of commitments the company promises to honor, including not selling firearms, keeping CCTV recordings in-store for 90 days, and not offering securities loans or securities. payday loans, among other criteria.
Graham said she was setting up a compliance committee to oversee the pawnshop.
She said the committee will be made up of representatives from the offices of Alderman and State Senator Don Harmon (39th), Oak Park Police Department, Chicago Police Department, North Avenue Business Association. , Mount Clare Chamber of Commerce, Cook County State Attorney’s Office, Oak Park Chamber of Commerce and Community Member.
“I want to show you that the authorities who are experiencing these compliance issues will be there to make sure the pawnshop is operating the way they are committed to operating,” Graham said.
The committee was news for Lee Owens, president of the North Avenue Business Association.
“The North Avenue Business Association has not been approached to participate in such groups and meetings, nor has NABA made a commitment to participate in such groups and meetings,” Owens said in a statement immediately after. the meeting.