Bill would require council to OK placement of pawnshops in city

November 14, 1995|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF

Pawnshops may have a tougher time opening shop in Baltimore neighborhoods because of a proposed City Council bill that aims to restrict their growth and also please some communities that view the shops as a nuisance and crime magnet.

Second District Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge and 3rd District Councilman Martin O'Malley introduced in last evening's City Council meeting a bill that would require the council to approve the placement of pawnshops first. Pawnshops can pop up in any area that is zoned for business use.

"Right now it easier for a pawnshop to come in the neighborhood than it is for a fast-food restaurant or a gas station," Mr. O'Malley said. "The neon signs, the 'quick cash now' signs, people see it as a place to fence goods. This is something that neighborhoods really go nuts about."

Mr. O'Malley said that if the bill passes, approval for any pawnshop would likely rest with community associations most affected by the store. The shops would be subject to neighborhood input on what items can be displayed in the front windows, what style the facade of the building can be and other details.

"If the neighborhood association agrees, the council will probably approve. If they don't, it won't fly," Mr. O'Malley said.

A public hearing on the bill will be held Dec. 4 at City Hall.

For years, pawnshop owners have felt the wary eye of the council looking at their businesses.

In May 1994, the council approved a bill that limited to 45 the number of pawnshops allowed in the city. It also tightened security measures that aimed to stop people from pawning stolen goods. But the bill did not address where the pawnshops could go or stop the pawnshops from moving from area to area.

In addition, business associations have worked to rid themselves of pawnshops.

At least two business districts have pushed for legislation that would limit pawnshops along commercial strips. Despite vacant stores in the area, business associations located on the 3300 block of Greenmount Ave. and the 5500 block of Harford Road have said they still did not want any more pawnshops to move in.

Richard D. Sussman, the president of the Maryland Pawnbrokers Association, said that his organization would review the bill.

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