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Council approves rezoning for pawn shop to move down Eight Mile

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published September 3, 2015

 The Ferndale City Council approved a conditional rezoning request for Motor City Pawn Brokers to move down Eight Mile Road into a larger building during the Aug. 24 meeting.

The Ferndale City Council approved a conditional rezoning request for Motor City Pawn Brokers to move down Eight Mile Road into a larger building during the Aug. 24 meeting.

Photos by Joshua Gordon

FERNDALE — The Ferndale City Council approved a conditional rezoning for a pawn shop on Eight Mile Road following a Planning Commission recommendation to deny the request.

Mark Aubrey, owner of Motor City Pawn Brokers at 771 E. Eight Mile Road, is looking to expand his business. He told the council he needs a bigger building to do so. Aubrey entered into an agreement to purchase 1461 E. Eight Mile Road, but the building was zoned for office/service and not general commercial, which is needed to operate a pawn shop.

Aubrey originally applied for rezoning in May at the Planning Commission meeting, but he was told to submit a conditional rezoning in which he could offer voluntary conditions to offset any real or perceived concerns for the rezoning to be approved.

Aubrey applied for conditional rezoning and presented his conditions at the July Planning Commission meeting, but concerns about him keeping the pawnbroker license at his current building led the commission to vote 4-3 to recommend to City Council to deny the request.

However, at the Aug. 24 City Council meeting, Carmine Avantini, with CIB Planning, said on behalf of Aubrey that after the Planning Commission meeting, Aubrey offered the additional condition that if the rezoning is approved, he would place a deed restriction on his current property so that if allowed to relocate, the 771 E. Eight Mile Road property could not be operated as a pawn shop.

The new condition led council to approve the conditional rezoning by a 4-1 vote, with Councilman Greg Pawlica voting no because of possible parking issues.

“I think the changes made benefit all involved,” Councilman Mike Lennon said. “My understanding is everyone on the Planning Commission thought you would keep both pawnbroker licenses, but now you have a potential buyer for the property, and there is a chance to improve the facade of that building and potentially another building.”

The current site of Motor City Pawn Brokers is about 1,200 square feet, and Aubrey said he needs additional space. He looked at facilities already zoned for general commercial, but he said he couldn’t locate one that was available and would work for his business.

The new location would offer 14,000 square feet, with about 2,500 square feet being used for retail and showroom operations and the rest used as warehouse and storage.

As part of the conditions he offered, Aubrey said he would close off the three overhead doors in the back facing residents who live on East Bennett Avenue; loading and unloading would be done from the side of the property; and lighting and security cameras would not invade the privacy and space of the residents.

Motor City Pawn Brokers would not have any evening hours, with the business slated to be open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturdays.

“In the past five years, we have had little to no problems with stolen items, and no problems in the neighborhood or criminal activity in or around the store,” Aubrey said. “Not only have residents been great, but the city has been great to me, and I think we have had a great relationship with the Police Department.”

Aubrey said his business in Ferndale has grown 35-40 percent in the past five years, and because 90 percent of his business is holding merchandise as collateral loans for customers, he needs more space to store things. Motor City Pawn Brokers currently does not sell guns or ammunition in the showroom, only storing guns as collateral loans, and that would continue at the new location, he said.

“I think every community needs at least one pawn shop,” Aubrey said. “I just want to relocate less than a half-mile down the road on the same street. I thought it would be a great fit, and I would love to stay a part of this community.”

Some residents who live on East Bennett behind the proposed location said they had concerns that a pawn shop being near their homes would bring problems.

“I bought my house eight years ago and live behind the proposed pawn shop area,” Ashley Dunworth said. “Our street is very quiet. There is little traffic, little crime, and we would like to keep it that way.”

Ferndale Police Chief Timothy Collins said customers at Motor City Pawn Brokers are fingerprinted, their identification is taken, and the merchandise is run through a system so the Police Department can see if any items were stolen. Collins said that police have had very little, if any, problems with Motor City Pawn Brokers in the past five years.

Resident Andrew Petrone, who lives behind the current location, said he doesn’t think the pawnbroker business has any negative effects on the community.

“I live behind the building now, and I have not had any issues at all,” he said. “As far as property values go, they have actually gone up in that area right off Eight Mile Road.”

A lack of parking was a concern, Community and Economic Development Director Derek Delacourt said, as the 22 available parking spots would be close to being enough for the size of the building, but they wouldn’t know until the final site plan if the site has the required number of spaces. Pawlica said the parking lot does not lend itself to a commercial business with flowing traffic.

Councilwoman Melanie Piana, who sits on the Planning Commission as the City Council liaison, said she voted no on the rezoning request during the July meeting, but with the new condition of closing the current location when relocation takes place, she saw no reason why the change wouldn’t work.

“I think Motor City Pawn (Brokers) has proven to be a very valuable and respectable business in Ferndale,” she said. “I expect they will continue to practice good business practices.”