A Mission pawn shop owner doesn’t know what to do after council decided not to take any action on his request for a zoning modification that would allow him to move his store from its current location to the building next door.
Corey Sidon of Mission City Pawn Shop leases the building at 33025 First Ave., where his shop is currently located. Last year, the pawn shop purchased the old bookstore at 33017 First Ave., directly beside it.
Sidon’s plan was to move the pawn shop into the building they own, rather than continue to pay rent at the current location.
However, to make the move, he needs council to change the zoning on the old bookstore.
According to a District of Mission staff report, the bookstore, like most of downtown, is currently zoned Core Commercial Downtown 1 (CCD1), which allows commercial use but excludes pawn shops, tattoo parlors and cheque-cashing businesses.
The bylaw, which was created by the past council, indicates that any of the excluded-use shops that were currently located downtown would remain as legally non-conforming. However, those businesses could not expand or move.
At last week’s council meeting, staff presented three options regarding Sidon’s request:
1. Maintain the status quo and not advance any request to amend the zoning bylaw.
2. Specifically allow this use on the one property only or introduce a text amendment to the existing zoning along with specific conditions on how and where a pawnshop would be permitted in the downtown.
3. Allow pawn shops as an outright use in the CCD1 zone.
Council decided not to take any action, thus maintaining the status quo.
“It took years and years of previous councils’ work to finally get some change happening in the downtown core,” said Mayor Pam Alexis.
“We invested a tremendous amount of money in the last term and are really moving the needle in – just what we expect in respect to business and people and hoping for certainly some density down there, ultimately.”
Most councillors agreed with the mayor’s opinion, except for Ken Herar, who said he supported Sidon’s request to move.
Several days after the meeting, Herar reiterated his belief that the pawn shop should be allowed to move.
“I’m really concerned about the bylaw downtown. I really think we’re setting a double standard here,” said Herar, noting other store owners can move.
“All he wants to do is move next door. I don’t think it’s a big deal. He’s paying his portion of taxes,” he added.
Herar emphasized that a new pawn shop won’t be added to the downtown area; it’s just the relocation of an established one.
“We could amend the bylaw to help him. I joined city council to help people, right? That’s my goal … I don’t want to screw anybody.”
As for Sidon, he doesn’t know what his next move will be.
He said it just makes sense for a business to own its own building.
“I always knew we would have to own our own building. We’re paying rent here, and that money – which we have to earn – we give it away and we never see it again.”
About 10 years ago Sidon talked to bookstore owner Ron Webber and asked if, when Webber retires, he could have first chance to buy the building.
In October 2018, the two men made the deal.
Sidon said the plan was simple – move the shop and end the lease.
“The city is forcing us to stay here and it’s costing us a lot of money, of course. We’re paying double now – the mortgage and the lease,” he said.
Sidon said his shop is a family-owned business. His father started it when it was located on Harbour Avenue. They moved the store to its current location 19 years ago.
“We aren’t a new pawn shop; we just want to move into our own building.”
Sidon said it was suggested to him that he could move his shop, just out of the downtown core.
“The customers have been coming here for 19 years to this location. Lots of people from out of town, they know where to find us. If I’m just next door, they’ll find us. If I move down the highway, it will really hurt our business.”
And, of course, he doesn’t own a building down the highway.
He says he just wants to rezone one building, not the whole downtown area.
“I’m not sure what direction to go now. This is my first time doing this kind of process, so I don’t know all the ins and outs about it, but I do believe it’s unfair.”