Community organizers on the northern border of Oak Park and Chicago might not get the ban they want on cash-for-gold and cash-for-gift-card stores in Oak Park’s commercial corridors.

Earlier this month, the North Avenue Zoning and Development Advisory Committee asked the Oak Park Village Board to consider banning businesses that give cash for jewelry and for gift cards.

Judith Alexander, chair of the North Avenue Zoning and Development Advisory Committee (NAZDAC), reminded trustees on Sept. 8 that day-labor employment agencies, pawn shops and payday loan companies have been prohibited from opening up on North Avenue, which is designated a “perimeter overlay district” by the village, since February 2002. But she added that those types of businesses were banned only after eight such businesses had opened on the Oak Park side of North Avenue.

“We believe it is time to change Oak Park’s tradition of closing the barn door only after the horses escape,” she said.

NAZDAC argues that cash-for-gold and cash-for-gift-card businesses are simply pawn shops by another name and discourage economic development in the village.

Eric Davis, a NAZDAC member, also told trustees during a public comment period at the meeting that the group’s efforts are a “pre-emptive strike” at predatory businesses.

Village Planner Craig Failor said in an interview with Wednesday Journal that while pawnshops are not allowed in the perimeter overlay district, which runs along the four borders of Oak Park, cash-for-jewelry stores are allowed because they are classified as jewelry stores.

“What they have to do to be considered a jewelry store is have a jewelry display case with all the jewelry up front, so when you go in it’s just like any other jewelry store,” he said.

While there are currently no cash-for-jewelry stores in Oak Park, there is nothing in the city ordinance to prevent them from coming in, Failor said.

 He said that cash-for-gift-card stores would not be allowed without approval from the village. Failor said an amendment to the zoning code would be required to open one.

He has communicated that information to NAZDAC but has not been given any direction by the board of trustees to take any further action.

Alexander said she and NAZDAC maintain that the two types of stores “tend to discourage more positive businesses from locating nearby.”

“They discourage people from patronizing North Avenue,” she said. “They are much like payday loan stores and currency exchanges.”


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