August 31, 2013
Pawn shop law stirs opposition
Downtown businesses wary of city plan to monitor sale of used goods
Concerns over a proposed secondhand shop law has prompted the formation of a coalition of downtown businesses hoping to postpone a public hearing of the measure.
The law, which was first brought before the Common Council on Aug. 6 to schedule the hearing, contains a number of requirements for any business involved in the sale of used items, everything from clothing to motorcycles.
These include holding all items bought by the shop for seven days, paying $75 for a license and rigid requirements for documenting information that includes the seller’s name, age, address, Social Security number and personal description.
As many as 15 businesses in downtown could be impacted by the broad proposed law, according to the coalition, which was listed as a “law for the regulation of pawn shops” on the council’s Aug. 6 agenda.
Another concern from the group is the timing of the public hearing, which follows the Labor Day weekend. The hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall before the 7 p.m. Common Council meeting.
Mayor Brian Tobin said that postponing the public hearing won’t necessarily help when he and members of the council want to hear the concerns from business owners affected by the law. If the public hearing is held next Tuesday as scheduled, the council would not vote on the proposal until its next meeting on Sept. 17 at the earliest.
“I think it’s smart to have a public hearing to hear any concerns and to make improvements to the law,” Tobin said. “We could postpone it, but we want to hear the public’s concerns so we can address them.”
An email was sent by the city police offering to answer any questions or address misconceptions about the proposed law, said Adam Megivern, the executive director of the Downtown Business Partnership.
The proposed law does not have any support from Jim Van Deuson, who owns Van Deuson Music at 5 Main St. He said that having to hold items will limit the opportunity to meet his customer needs.
“In my business, impulse buying is important,” Van Deuson said. “If they can’t have it in their hand, they won’t buy it.”
This can make holding a desirable item a problem if the customer’s best option is not for sale yet. It could affect businesses which are still getting started in the city like his music shop, Van Deuson said.
Another business worried about the law is Frank Hoxie of Simply Heirlooms at 17-29 Main St. Hoxie attended the coalition meeting and stands by the group’s recommendation to push the public hearing to a later date.
“They didn’t think this law through fully before springing it on us,” Hoxie said.
Being in the business of buying and selling gold and other precious metals, wild fluctuations in the market can occur that would affect buying, Hoxie said.
With the possibility of a downturn in the market during the seven-day hold, it might force precious metal buyers to offer lower sums to sellers.
“In nine days, I have no idea what the market is,” Hoxie said, referring to the increased hold time from nonbusiness days.
Van Deuson and Hoxie both record the names and license number of sellers to protect their businesses from purchasing undocumented stolen goods. This makes the law seem like an unnecessary hindrance to local businesses, Hoxie said.
“They haven’t thought about the ramifications,” he said. “Do you want people to go out of Cortland?”
If the law was to be passed in its current state, Hoxie said he would consider relocating outside the city limits to avoid the requirements of the law.
For Van Deuson, the proposed law in its current form will only serve to negatively affect his bottom line.
“Anything I have to do that costs me money will hurt my business,” Van Deuson said. “If I can’t sell them (instruments) and they’re sitting in the back, it does me no good.”
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