The owner of a downtown Mission pawn shop is not giving up on his fight with city hall.
Corey Sidon of Mission City Pawn Shop has been talking with a lawyer and planning his next move after council refused 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.
He believes the zoning bylaw is unfair and makes no sense, even more so considering the COVID-19 situation.
Sidon points out that pawnbrokers are listed on the COVID-19 essential service list.
“Essential services should not be restricted in any business zone in a municipality,” stated Sidon, adding the Canadian government is spending billions of dollars to help businesses survive while Mission is restricting them in the downtown core.
The District’s Core Commercial Downtown 1 (CCD1) zoning bylaw allows commercial use, but excludes pawn shops, tattoo parlors and cheque-cashing businesses. The bylaw does allow shops that were currently located downtown to remain as legally non-conforming. However, those businesses could not expand or move.
Due to the bylaw, Sidon – who currently leases the building at 33025 First Ave. – can’t move his company next store into the old bookstore at 33017 First Ave., even though he bought the building.
Sidon said his attorneys have proposed a solution to the District, that would amend the zoning bylaw to allow the move – but nothing has come of it.
“Instead of helping our business in these changing and uncertain times, they would rather spend taxpayers money on lawyers and hold their position,” said Sidon, adding he and his family have been paying business taxes for the past 20 years.
He understands that the District wants to make the downtown area “welcoming and family friendly” but doesn’t agree that restricting pawn shops while welcoming a Cannabis store achieves that goal.
“How is an age-restricted use Cannabis store family-friendly?”
Ultimately, Sidon says he feels discriminated against. The bylaw allows some businesses and excludes others from the downtown area.
He knows of two businesses that have recently changed locations downtown, but he cannot because of the restrictions in the bylaw.
He said he doesn’t understand how Mission Mayor Pam Alexis can release a statement in June, condemning racism, discrimination and inequality, but support this bylaw.
“Question to the Mission Mayor, are some kinds of discrimination and inequality OK?” he asked.
Mike Younie, the district’s Chief Administrative Officer said the downtown zoning bylaw was in place ,before Sidon bought the property.
“The removal of the pawn shops dates way back, I’m going to guess 2013 or 2014 … and that all stems from the Mission City Downtown Revitalization Plan that identified the need or the desire to create a family-friendly environment,” Younie explained adding pawn shops weren’t, at that time, deemed to fit that criteria.
As for being an essential service, Younie said that is obviously a very recent development due to COVID-19.
“There are still zones in Mission where pawn shops are allowed and continue to operate, as do the legally non-conforming ones downtown.”
Younie said there has been some dialogue with Sidon and he can always bring another application before council to be considered.
Zonings are entirely discretionary by council, he added.
When Sidon originally approached council with his request to change locations, it was defeated by a 6-1 vote. The only councillor to support the move was Ken Herar.
Herar said he still supports the move.
“If people are using his business during this difficult time of COVID-19, absolutely, I support him 110 per cent … We should amend the bylaw to allow him to move.”