City Council OKs zoning for southwest Topeka laundromat to be open 16 hours a day, not 24

Outgoing Topeka Mayor Larry Wolgast, on the right, recognized outgoing Councilman Richard Harmon, in the center, during Tuesday’s City Council meeting as Councilwoman Michelle De La Isla, on the left, looked on. (Photo courtesy of the City of Topeka)

A planned southwest Topeka laundromat will be allowed to stay open up to 16 hours a day instead of the 24 hours the owners had sought.

 

Topeka’s governing body voted 10-0 Tuesday evening to change zoning to enable 2.5 acres of vacant land at the northeast corner of S.W. 22nd Terrace and Westport Drive to become the site of a building that will house the business, which is to be operated by Aqua Blast Self-Service Laundry.

But first, governing body members voted 6-4 to approve an amendment proposed by Councilman Brendan Jensen reducing the hours of operation set forth in the proposal from 24 to 16. The amendment enables the laundromat to open as early as 6 a.m. and stay open as late as 10 p.m.

Jensen said he’d heard from “numerous” people who opposed letting the laundromat stay open 24 hours a day.

Council members Jensen, Sylvia Ortiz, Tony Emerson, Michelle De La Isla, Jeff Coen and Richard Harmon voted in favor of the amendment. Mayor Larry Wolgast and Councilwomen Karen Hiller, Sandra Clear and Elaine Schwartz dissented.

The Topeka Planning Commission had voted 6-0 on Sept. 18 to recommend the governing body approve the proposed plan, including letting the business stay open 24 hours.

The governing body voted Dec. 5 to return the proposal to the planning commission, while asking it to further consider the project’s potential traffic impact and reconsider whether to allow the business to be open 24 hours. Ortiz said that evening that the presence of a laundromat that is open all night could create a dangerous situation.

Planning commissioners then voted 5-2 on Dec. 18 to return their original recommendations to the governing body with no amendments.

City planning director Bill Fiander told governing body members Tuesday that his office’s staff – after the proposal was returned to the planning commission — concluded the laundromat’s traffic impact would be negligible but continued to oppose letting it be open 24 hours.

The governing body on Tuesday evening also voted 9-1, with Ortiz dissenting, to approve its economic and community development committee’s recommendation that the city during its 2019 funding cycle make specific allocations totaling $796,233 in social services and contracted services funding. Those include $211,233 for contracted services and $585,000 for social services.

The governing body had initially planned not to act on the proposal Tuesday evening, but Clear asked that the matter be moved from a non-action item to an action item. Wolgast then made that move after no governing body members voiced opposition to it.

In other business, the governing body:

— Held a special recognition ceremony to honor Wolgast, Harmon and Schwartz, who will leave office next week after not seeking re-election, and De La Isla, who will leave her council seat to assume the mayor’s office she won in the November general election. De La Isla praised Wolgast’s work as mayor, saying he’s given the city a level of dignity and leadership “that we were very thirsty for.”

—Heard Harmon, who has been on the council since 2005, challenge members to be proactive in pinpointing what they want in terms of economic development for this community and to strategically use the city’s tax incentives to meet those objectives.

—Heard Ortiz, who has served with Harmon on the council since they joined that body at the same time, joke that his leaving that body made her feel like they were getting a divorce.

—Voted 10-0 to appoint Corliss Scroggins Lawson to the Topeka Planning Commission for a term running through Sept. 30, 2021.

—Voted 10-0 to approve a consent agenda that included city attorney Lisa Robertson’s recommendations that the city deny a tort claim appeal submitted by Charles Cozad seeking $125 for alleged damages to his vehicle from hitting a pothole, and to deny a tort claim submitted on behalf of Complete Nutrition seeking $100,000 in compensation for lost revenues linked to a city construction project.

Reporter Tim Hrenchir can be reached at (785) 295-1184 or @timhrenchir on Twitter.

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