By this summer, another car title loan business will open its doors, this time at the former Il Paradiso Trattoria site on Route 1.
TitleMax is expected to open in June, said Brendan Clark of Renaud Consulting, the leasing agent at Cooper Center. TitleMax signed the lease for the space June 2011 but did not submit drawings to the landlord until March. The company needs to go to Fairfax County for final approval of their plans.
The new TitleMax location will be the second car title loan business to open on Route 1 since January 1. There are at least eight car title loan businesses in Fairfax County, three of which are located along the Route 1 corridor.
The car title lending industry was unregulated until legislation went into effect in October 2010. During the 2011 legislative session, however, Virginia lawmakers passed a bill eliminating provisions that prevent car title lenders from lending to individuals whose car is registered out-of-state. The measure allows car title loans to be made to out-of-state residents if the lender’s security interest is added to the certificate of title by complying with the laws of the state where the vehicle is registered.
Although the bill further placed additional regulations on car title lenders in Virginia, local lawmakers are concerned that making car title loans available to non-residents will perpetuate the growth of car title lenders on Route 1.
Del. Scott Surovell (D-44th) said, "I'm concerned it was going to turn Route 1 into a place for car title lenders because of our proximity to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge." He added that making car title loans available to non-residents could attract Maryland residents and active duty military personnel looking for fast cash.
In a recent post on his blog The Dixie Pig, Surovell stated his opposition to the legislation. "I thought this was the last kind of redevelopment we needed on U.S. 1 if we were going to improve the reputation of our area," he wrote.
Local zoning regulations have made it easier for car title lenders to set up shop in Fairfax County.
According to a recent blog post by SFDC Executive Director David Versel, car title loan businesses are permitted by the C-8 (Highway Commercial) zoning district; the only improvements being made to those buildings are cosmetic.
“As such, the county has no legal authority to stop these businesses from opening assuming that they comply with all other laws,” Versel said in the blog post on Patch. “If the owners of these businesses are willing to pay the rent, then the building owners are perfectly well within their rights to lease space to them.”
Proponents of car title loan businesses say they provide an easy way for people to get cash quickly without a credit history check, provided those taking the money understand the terms and risks and pay the loan back quickly.
"I don’t really think of it as economic development,” Sen. Linda “Toddy” Puller (D-36th) said. “I can’t believe that Mike’s Italian restaurant is a car title loan place [Fast Auto Loans]. I’d rather have another Italian restaurant [in that location]."
Patch contacted TitleMax and CashPoint; representatives from both companies declined comment.