Lawrenceville votes to reduce presence of car title loan/pawn shops

LAWRENCEVILLE - The Lawrenceville Council acted to reduce the presence of car title loan/pawn shops in the city Monday by turning down a request for an existing business to relocate to a larger space in the same shopping center.

The council voted 3-1 to deny a special-use permit to TitleMax/Title Pawn at 575 W. Pike Street to move from Suite D to A in Township Plaza. The relocation would have allowed the business to more than double its space and put up a larger sign.

Council approval of special-use permits for pawn shops is a new city requirement. TitleMax can remain in its present suite at the shopping center.

The city's planning commission had recommended approving the permit.

Before voting, council members questioned Charles Cole, vice president of operations for TitleMax, about the Savannah-based company's interest rates and repossession frequency.

TitleMax charges from 9.9 to 12.5 percent a month, less than its competitors and lower than the state-allowed 25 percent maximum on interest for car title loans, Cole said.

Repossession is a last resort, Cole said.

"We try to work with our customers so they can keep their cars and their jobs," he said.

Cole indicated willingness to make concessions on the text and size of the new sign including removal of the words "Title Pawn." He also told the council that TitleMax does not store repossessed vehicles at its locations overnight. They are stored off site until redeemed by the customer or liquidated.

"This is not an easy call for me," said Councilman P.K. Martin IV, who cast the lone vote against a motion to deny the special-use permit.

While he does not favor the proliferation of pawn shops since "the city has a good amount already," Martin explained he did not want to keep the shopping center owner from leasing the larger space to a ready tenant.

Councilwoman Judy Johnson made the motion to deny the permit. Her motion was seconded by Councilman Bob Clark. Johnson, Clark and Councilman Mike Crow voted in favor of the motion.

Cole said after the council meeting that TitleMax/Title Pawn would continue to operate in the same suite and does not plan to challenge the council's decision. TitleMax has more than 500 locations in seven states including 200 in Georgia.