During the past three years, alternative lending companies, like payday and car-title loan firms, have almost doubled number in Fairfax County.
Officials have long believed these lenders are inappropriate for the county’s revitalization districts where almost two-thirds can be found today. They signal decline in a community and deter other stores, eateries and small businesses from moving to these areas, says academic research.
County leaders first expressed their concerns in 2013, and now they are poised to restrict where these companies can set up shop. Today, the Board of Supervisors took the first step in this process by authorizing public hearings on the proposed new zoning regulations.
Under the current zoning rules, payday and car-title lenders are permitted to operate by-right in the same locations as commercial banks—that is within most commercial and industrial zoning districts.
Under the proposed zoning changes, however, these businesses would be permitted by-right only in two commercial zoning districts, known as C-7 and C-8. These are the more traditional commercial areas off major roads or highways, such as Arlington Boulevard, Little River Turnpike and Richmond Highway.
The proposed new rules also require lenders to be based in shopping centers as opposed to stand alone uses. In addition, the following would apply:
- Only one lending business per shopping center would be allowed.
- Lenders may not be located in shopping centers that are next to or across from any public use, place of worship, child care center, private school, or quasi-public athletic fields and related facilities.
- Hours of operation would be limited to 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.
- Cars may not be stored or sold on the property.
New alternative lending businesses also would be prohibited from locating in the county’s five Commercial Revitalization Districts and two Commercial Revitalization Areas
- Baileys Crossroads – Seven Corners
- Richmond Highway
- Lake Anne
Currently, 19 of the 31 existing lenders are located in the county’s in these areas. Of the total number of lenders, five are payday and 22 are car title loan companies. Car title lenders make loans where people sign over their titles as collateral.
Zoning officials have also recommended these land use regulations because they will help place lenders in areas that have roads that can handle high traffic volumes.
The recommended zoning rules first will be considered by the Planning Commission, which is scheduled to hold a public hearing on Oct. 21. The Board of Supervisors is expected to hold its own public hearing on Nov. 17. Both hearings are required before the county can adopt changes to the zoning rules.