Barring a population boom, Blue Springs could well have fewer short-term loan business and tobacco shops in the future.

The City Council has voted to cap the number of short-term loan shops, commonly called payday loan shops, as well as “tobacconists” – that is, businesses that primarily sell tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.

Specifically, the city will allow one for every 12,000 residents. With the current population at about 55,000, that amounts to four businesses each.

Existing businesses are grandfathered in, as the city currently has nine payday loan shops and five tobacco stores. Previously, the population limits had been one for every 4,500 for payday loan shops and every 8,000 for tobacco shops.

The changes had been part of one bill, but the council agreed with Mayor Carson Ross' suggestion to separate it, then unanimously approved the tobacco shop change and approved the payday loan change 6-1.

Earlier, the Development Advisory Commission voted 2-1 for the tobacco shop change but 2-1 against the payday loan one.

Council Member Ron Fowler said his no vote came in large part because of the commission’s split vote and because the Planning Commission had voted 6-4 against recommending the changes.

Fowler said the majority opinions with the Planning Commission centered around a free-enterprise argument, but Blue Springs' previous population standards left it open to possibly getting businesses that had been unable to locate nearby, he said. The previous standards allowed for up to 12 payday loan shops and six tobacco stores.

Independence, for example, has tightened its population standards in recent years to one every 15,000.

Council Member Susan Culpepper said in discussions with Community Services League CEO/President Doug Cowan, the payday loan regulation is not a matter or discouraging free enterprise.

But rather “their concern is these places prey upon those people most vulnerable.”

Also, with the approved changes the city added 1,000 feet to the buffer zone on payday loan shops between another such shop, a pawn shop, or the edge of the city limits, pushing the buffer to 2,500 feet. Payday loan shops already are restricted to at least 200 feet from residential areas and 1,500 feet from any school or park.

Tobacco shops already have a 500-foot buffer restriction from any residential area, church, school or park, following regulations added last year.

Mike Mallon, assistant director of community development, said that has led to businesses clustered along Missouri 7, and some wouldn't meet current buffer standards if they hadn't been grandfathered in.

“It has been our most limiting factor,” Mallon said of the 500-foot buffer.

The population threshold for payday loan shops will be determined based on annual census estimates, while the tobacco shop threshold will be based on the latest 10-year census.