Payday lenders — steer clear of Salt Lake County.

On Tuesday, the Salt Lake County Council kicked any new check-cashing businesses to the curb, after the council unanimously approved an ordinance two years in the making.

It was two years too long for the ordinance's sponsor, Councilman Joe Hatch.

"It's a classic debate," Hatch said. "It's clearly one of the most vented ordinances that we've dealt with" since the county switched from a commission form to a council-mayor form of government.

Hatch has tried to push the ordinance through since May 2006. Everyone on the council agreed something needed to be done to regulate the industry, but some members of the council were reluctant to pass an all-out ban.

Although Councilman Mark Crockett voted for the ordinance, he doesn't think it will work.

"What we do here doesn't fix the rate problems, it just grants local monopolies and makes it even harder for the real issue of rates and disclosures to be addressed," Crockett said.

The new payday lending ordinance limits check-cashing businesses to one per 10,000 county residents. It also scatters the lenders across the county by spacing payday loan shops at least 600 feet apart in unincorporated areas.

The ordinance originally restricted the businesses to one per 15,000 but was amended Tuesday. Even with the lower amount, Hatch said no new lending business will be built because of the county's current population level.

Ten cities in the county have density or zoning restrictions on payday lenders.

The county put a six-month moratorium in place last fall to "wait and see" if the Legislature would put any regulations in place for the check-cashing industry on a statewide level. Then the county extended the ban for another two months, and still no real meaningful regulation has been passed at either the state or federal level.

But Crockett fears higher levels of government won't do anything now.

"We will have created the illusion that we have done something significant and let the state off the hook," Crockett said.


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