New rules for pay-day lenders delayed

Some pay-day lenders are shady and should be prevented from gouging customers.

That was a sentiment industry representatives, elected leaders and critics all agreed on while discussing new rules proposed for quick-cash stores in Clark County.

But the common ground ended there at a Wednesday meeting with the County Commission.

Proposed rules call for keeping new pay-day loan stores at least 200 feet from the nearest residence and 660 feet from an existing pay-day lender.

The rule would reduce the 1,000 feet that’s now required between the lenders but would bar the businesses from requesting a waiver to shorten the gap further. The no-waiver clause stirred the most divisive debate.

“It takes away this commission’s ability to do waivers,” said Jay Brown, an attorney representing several quick-cash stores. “That’s bad.”

Demand for the service is high, Brown said, estimating that 5.75 million banking transactions were made at quick-cash stores in Nevada last year.

But Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, argued that the rising foot traffic reflects a growing number of stores taking advantage of people struggling with the weaker economy and mortgage crisis.

There are 478 pay-day loan stores in the state, compared with 107 McDonald’s restaurants, Buckley told commissioners.

A consumer advocate argued that no more are needed.

“The general public is fed up with what they see as the proliferation of these types of businesses on every corner,” said Kathleen Delaney, who works in the attorney general’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Commissioners decided to put the proposed rules on hold for 60 days. They asked county staff to revamp the review process so the commission has the final word about new pay-day stores.

The county planning commission now approves new stores and decides whether rules should be waived.

But town boards complain that the planning commission seldom, if ever, denies requests to waive the minimum distance, causing the pay-day stores to cluster, Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said.

Giunchigliani proposed keeping the 1,000-foot gap and imposing the no-waiver rule.

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