Kenmore bans pawnshops

Village's decision to ban pawnshops is hasty and extreme

The Village of Kenmore has decided to “just say no” – to pawnshops.

After local business owners became suspicious that a loan broker was quietly attempting to open a shop in the area, town officials acted rapidly and severely by placing a six-month ban on the businesses.

This temporary ruling culminated in the recent decision to disallow pawnshops and loan brokers entirely.

The ban stems from concern that pawnshops could attract criminal activity and allow for the trafficking of stolen goods, though no reports of crime stemming from such shops have surfaced.

Instead, the move appears to be preemptive – and perhaps presumptive.

In a copy of the law proposing the original six-month moratorium, the Village Board cited “several communities across the country” that noticed pawn shops causing “certain negative effects.”

The details justifying Kenmore’s decision are scarce to say the least.

There was no uptick in crime in Kenmore due to pawnshops, and even the national examples the Board cites are lacking specificity.

This is not to say that Kenmore is entirely wrong in their decision or that there is no detailed evidence supporting the village’s choice. But with the information being shared, the decision to outright ban an entire business category seems extreme.

Such a characterization is exacerbated by the reports the Board cited, which expressed concern and a “need for regulation” – but not specifically prohibition.

The City of Buffalo, for example, allows pawnshops to operate but maintains specific regulatory practices to keep the businesses in check and avoid negative effects of the pawnshops’ presence.

Regulation and supervision seem a much more reasonable move than prohibiting operations entirely.

This is especially valid considering that this is the first step Kenmore has taken regarding the issue. When the village first placed its temporary ban, it did so in order to evaluate the situation and make a decision.

With all that time available to the Board, it seems that they would have considered compromise as a wise first move.

If imposing regulations on pawnshops in the village doesn’t work, the Board would use prohibition as the next step. With such a readily available fail-safe plan, Kenmore’s decision seems all the more hasty.

But other recent decisions by the Village Board offer a possible and worrisome explanation for the ban.

Kenmore recently approved stricter height restrictions on businesses near Kenmore’s waterfront and village officials are also considering an expansion of the village’s restricted business district near Delaware Avenue.

Suddenly, the board’s decision to ban pawnshops seems less anomalous and more indicative of an unnerving trend.

Kenmore seems determined to control the distribution of businesses in their village, and the village officials are doing just that. While the board has the right to pass legislation regarding zoning, their actions are beginning to look overzealous.

Preserving a specific neighborhood’s image or maintaining a desired environment are worthy goals, but organic development and change should be allowed to flourish as well – even if such change includes a new pawnshop.