Decision about North Ave. pawn shop generates formal complaint


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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

Galewood neighbors against the approved EZ Pawn shop slated for North Avenue in Austin aren't ready to back down.

The North Avenue Neighbors Association has filed a complaint with the Circuit Court of Cook County over the shop. The Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals approved the shop earlier this year for a strip mall along North Avenue near Narragansett. The ZBA certified that decision on March 12.

The new store would be located at 6432 W. North Ave., a small space that has been vacant for many months. Galewood residents, along with those in neighboring Oak Park who live near North Avenue, have opposed the pawn shop — the fifth in the area — from the beginning. The issue spurred multiple community meetings.

Ald. Deborah Graham (29th Ward) has faced criticism after writing a letter in support of the shop. Graham maintains she's not pro-pawn shop, but supports having a business in that location that's been empty for some time. Residents, however, haven't been swayed.

The complaint states that "petitioners will be substantially affected by the outcome of this decision and will suffer special and unique damages to themselves and their property."

Larry Andolino, a Galewood resident and lawyer representing the petitioners, filed the complaint on April 16. The neighbors insist that the shop doesn't match the character of the community and would also spur more crime.

The ZBA's decision can be overturned — an Oct. 15, administrative review has bet set to determine that.

Andolino, however, anticipates a court date will occur well in advance of that hearing. Based on his interpretation of zoning codes, Andolino isn't convinced that EZ Pawn fits the criteria for the special-use permit it was granted. According to the city's zoning ordinance, a special use permit is granted to businesses that are "in the interest of the public convenience and will not have a significant adverse impact on the general welfare of the neighborhood or community, [and] is compatible with the character of the surrounding area."

A special-use permit cannot be granted, Andolino and others argue, if all criteria are not met. In the complaint, Andolino references a section of Chicago's municipal code. It states that pawn shops may not be located within 1,000 feet of each other. There are already multiple shops within 1,000 to 1,500 feet in the area — three are in Oak Park and one is in Chicago.

Oak Park has established a moratorium on opening any more pawn shops.

Andolino adds that the ZBA relied on opinions of a real estate appraiser and an urban planner who weren't qualified on the subject. The complaint lists myriad reasons why residents from the two towns don't want another pawn shop in the area.

Among the reasons listed: 300 petitions in opposition and 30 residents from the communities who spoke against the use, including a retired Chicago police sergeant who said his experience shows that "pawn shops increase property crimes and cause security concerns."

Email: Twitter: @AnnaLothson

Reader Comments

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Marsha M from Oak Park  

Posted: April 27th, 2013 4:03 PM

My impression about pawn shops comes from an experience a few years ago when there was a rash of thefts of lawn furniture and barbecue grills from the back yards on my block. I lost a fine weber grill. The cops eventually caught the "grill napper" when they pulled him over and noticed charcoal brickets in the back of his station wagon. The thief told the police that he had been selling the stuff to pawnshops on North Ave. Those pawnshops are only there for fencing stuff stolen in Oak Park.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: April 24th, 2013 3:35 PM

OP Rez you are stating data without any source or verification. I don't justify any business in any neighborhood likewise I don't condemn their presence. Our community seem to take pride in knowing what is best for everyone else. Liquor was first, guns came next and now you guys are wringing your hands over a pawn shop. Get a life! We have real problems in our community, county and state and you would rather have an empty store front than a business that generates tax revenue. Do you find it interesting that the corporate offices of the pawn shop have decided not to waste its time arguing in the local papers.

OP Rez  

Posted: April 24th, 2013 3:08 PM

Ray, this store is not a positive contribution to either community no matter how are you try to paint it so. Just because there are regulations doesn't stop a criminal from unloading goods, just like laws don't stop the criminals from stealing and robbing in the first place. Camera's have shown to be highly limited in their efforts to deter crime... Notice Chicago taking down much of their blue light specials, as they are of little use. Plus, much of the goods are untraceable.

OP Rez  

Posted: April 24th, 2013 3:03 PM

Alright, short sighted and small minded people, research has shown that a concentration of pawn stores in a single area adds to the decline of that area. Letting the "free market prevail" has shown to be detrimental in more than a number of cases... case in point, the number of liquor stores in Austin just next door to us. I suppose these business that are "just making a living" are positive contributions to that area in the eyes of some?

danny from chicago  

Posted: April 24th, 2013 2:49 PM

P.S. there probably are more than six food establishments right that very vicinity. why dont you go after them for trying to make a living! idiots!

danny from chicago  

Posted: April 24th, 2013 2:43 PM

who are we to stand in the the way of free enterprize! its a business trying to make it like any other whether it be on the chicago or oak park side of north avenue. HOW DARE YOU! if there were 5 or 6 hot dog stands in the same vicinity we wouldnt even be having this discussion. shame on you!

John Galt  

Posted: April 24th, 2013 2:17 PM

I agree with Ray. Let the market prevail! I'm looking forward to future strip clubs and fertilizer plants along the North Ave corridor.


Posted: April 24th, 2013 1:58 PM

There seems to be a bigger need for a copper downspout store.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: April 24th, 2013 8:17 AM

The free market will determine how many pawn shops can survive in any area. The well run will prosper and the poorly run will fail. Pawn shops are, by law, very tightly regulated and thieves don't go there. If a shop takes in an item and the police seize it the shop is out its money and the item. Video surveillance gives law enforcement proof of who sold the item and what they look like. Has anyone considered that, perhaps , one or more of the existing shops in the area is in trouble and is attempting to limit competition by a more tightly, betyter run organization? I have heard that this is in fact the case. Pawn shops have a long and colorful history. The Simpson's ( No relation that I can determine) in New York took the Hope diamond in on pawn and was the storage facility for NEW York's elite ladies fur coats each summer. This is just another local business that survives or fails based upon the needs of the community and the fact that some find them distasteful is no reason to deny anyone the oppotunity to make a living.

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