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City to continue moratoriums on payday loans, liquor licenses

Business owners may have to continue waiting to get a new liquor license or open up a payday loan store in Selma. 

The Selma City Council took formal action Tuesday to extend a payday loan store moratorium and briefly discussed plans to extend its moratorium on new liquor licenses.

The payday loan store moratorium was extended for six additional months after expiring on July 30. It passed unanimously on the council’s consent agenda.

Ward 8 councilman Michael Johnson, who suggested the initial moratorium in January, said he is already looking into potential restrictions on payday loan stores.

“We need at least a little bit longer to see what kind of difference we can make,” Johnson said. “I think after this six months we are going to move forward with some kind of action.”

He said the city would look at distances between payday stores as a potential regulation. Johnson said he has already asked city attorney Jimmy Nunn to gather regulations set by other cities after the expiration of payday loan moratoriums.

Midfield’s regulations prevented new payday loan stores from locating within 2,000 feet of other lenders. In 2011, Title Max of Alabama challenged Midfield’s law, but a Jefferson County judge ruled in favor of the city.

Many other city’s regulations mimic Midfield, but vary on the exact distance required between stores.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Ward 1 city councilman Cecil Williamson also asked Nunn to draft a resolution to extend Selma’s liquor license moratorium, which expires on Sept. 11.

Discussion was limited about a liquor license extension during the meeting. Afterward, Williamson said that crime and alcohol are often intertwined, which would be a reason for an extension.

“So much of the crime and accidents are all alcohol related,” Williamson said. “We certainly have enough places for anyone who wants a drink. There is a limit to how much alcohol a population of 20,000 is able to consume.”

He said it’s important for the city to consider if liquor stores and owners have paid all taxes owed before being issues a business license. Williamson said one potential measure is to ensure all businesses are examined for taxes due before applications are approved.

Another regulation, Williamson said, is to establish a distance ordinance, similar to payday loan stores.

Neither the payday loan nor liquor license moratoriums apply to existing businesses or license transfers.

The liquor license moratorium also doesn’t affect any businesses looking to open up shop in the entertainment district, which extends from the intersection of Church Street and Water Avenue to Water Avenue and Martin Luther King Street.

Once both moratoriums wrap up in late 2014, Nunn said any final ordinance pertaining to liquor licenses or payday loan stores wouldn’t affect existing businesses, which would be essentially grandfathered in.

“They will be non-conforming, but legal,” Nunn said. “If they go out of businesses, then a new businesses would have to comply.”