Lenexa council rejects proposed car wash after neighbors’ worries about noise

A rendering of the proposed car wash.
A developer’s mock up of what the proposed car wash would have looked like. This is another of the company’s car washes in Lawrence, but with the roof color changed through Photoshop.

By Dawn Bormann Novascone

The prospect of the constant whir of car vacuums and wash equipment near Lenexa homes ultimately helped doom a plan to build an express car wash near 87th Street Parkway and Rosehill Road.

The Lenexa City Council rejected the plan Tuesday. Several City Council members agreed that if the car wash were proposed elsewhere it could have their support. But this lot sat too close to the homes in Greystone Estates South.

The lot at 13050 W. 87th Street Parkway in the Greystone Plaza has sat vacant for nearly 40 years as commercial development has sprung up around it. Although the address has an 87th Street Parkway address it sits behind the Hy-Vee Gas station and is accessible by a private street.

Mayor Michael Boehm pointed out that it didn’t fit in with the character of the neighborhood and didn’t protect the nearby citizens.

“There are uses that will fit here that are probably less impactful on neighbors and traffic,” Boehm said. “And neighbors be prepared, we will zone this at some point and will develop this.”

The grass lot has had few serious proposals except an Earl May Garden Center several years ago. But it’s getting more attention, Boehm said.

The car wash was originally presented to the City Council in July but the City Council voted to continue it to August. It was continued again when the developer asked for time to complete a sound study and tweak the design.
The updated plan included a six-foot tall solid fence, considerable landscaping and special equipment including insulated vacuums that would help reduce the sound of the vacuums. But the plan wasn’t enough, City Council members agreed.

City Council members pointed out that the sound study failed to take into account how the Hermes Landscaping administrative office would be affected. The building houses accounting, human resources and other administrative jobs.

Neighbors firmly opposed the proposal, which called for a 150-foot car wash tunnel, two self-serve pet wash bays and free vacuums. The facility would have operated from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Jim Wolf, who lives behind the property, was surprised when he went to a Lawrence car wash that is operated by the same company. Developers said the Lenexa building would be similar.

“My wife and I didn’t go to listen. We went to see,” he said.

Instead they were alarmed by the sound.

“The sounds of the vacuums had that high-pitch sound that was very, very disturbing,” he said.

Wolf questioned if there were other uses for the commercial property that wouldn’t be detrimental to the nearby homes.

“We don’t have anything against car washes. Again, we use them. It’s just our feeling that this is a bad place for a car wash,” Wolf said.

Mayor Michael Boehm visited the car wash too and agreed there was a high-pitched whine that he could hear even above the constant traffic on nearby 23rd Street in Lawrence.

Dalton Hermes, of Hermes Landscape, pointed out that the car wash fronts a private street.

“Usually when I see car washes they’ve got great roads coming into them. They’re off a city street,” he said.

Hermes also questioned the sound and how loud it would be at their office, which houses accounting, human resources and other administrative jobs. The acoustical study didn’t include the nearby offices though sound experts said the sound level was acceptable under city code.

Councilman Joe Karlin, who is a consultant for car washes and co-owns a different car wash, was encouraged to see the modifications the developer made to help limit noise. Yet ultimately as a consultant he rarely sees car washes abutting homes. Car washes generally sit right on a major thoroughfare to capture traffic, he said.

“In all the reviews I’ve done I’ve seen exactly two car washes in single family,” he said. “That gives me pause.”