Wichita settles split, approves car sale lot at Central/West

The Wichita auto enthusiast won City Council approval Tuesday to open a small car-sales lot near Central and West, after a lengthy stop-and-start process that’s been going on since July.

The council action clears the way for up to four cars at a time to be sold on the parking lot at 4231 W. Central. Currently, that parking lot is shared by an automotive shop and a car upholstery business.

The car lot will be separately operated from the other businesses by applicant Jeremiah Leathers, who’ll be leasing four parking spaces along with a small office in the upholstery shop.

Leathers, a quality inspector in the aircraft industry, said cars are his passion and he’s been buying and selling them on the side for years.

He said he’s still working, but layoffs and furloughs in the aircraft industry, hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, nudged him toward trying to turn his part-time hobby business into a full-time business.

He said hopes his tiny car lot will soon outgrow the location.

The council’s unanimous vote settles a split between the District 6 Advisory Board, which unanimously recommended denial and the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, which unanimously recommended approval.

Getting a conditional-use permit to sell cars on Central “has not been the best experience,” he said.

The Planning Department originally recommended denying the permit because it would introduce a new use in that part of the “community core,” a roughly three-mile radius around downtown.

In July, the District Advisory Board agreed and unanimously urged the council to deny Leathers’ plan.

The next step was the Planning Commission. He won a recommendation of approval there, after agreeing to limit his stock to four cars at a time and other conditions dealing with lighting, signage, fencing and other issues.

Then, he had to go back through the Planning Commission and get it approved all over again, because the city printed the wrong date in the newspaper legal ad and had to re-advertise the public hearing.

Cindy Claycomb, the City Council member representing the area, made the motion to finally approve the little car lot at Tuesday’s meeting.

There was some confusion there because Planning Director Scott Wadle initially told the council that the District Advisory Board had approved the plan.

But council member Bryan Frye pointed out that that conflicted with the written staff report that said the DAB recommended denial.

“This (DAB vote) is one of those motion’s that’s backwards,” Claycomb explained. “The motion from staff was denial, so they were approving the denial.”

In other words, when DAB members voted “yes,” it was a “no” on the project.

She said she was voting the opposite of her DAB because their vote was back in July before the project was refined by the Planning Commission.

“They (planning commissioners) put some pretty strict conditions on this,” she said. “This is not a typical auto sales. This is four spots; four parking spots where they will be selling cars and no more than four.”

Leathers said he’s glad to have finally gotten approval, although he did notice the address in the documents is 4231 W. Central, while he thinks the actual address he’ll be occupying in the building is 4233.

“Hopefully that isn’t an issue,” he said.

Senior Journalist Dion Lefler has been providing award-winning coverage of local government, politics and business in Wichita for 20 years. Dion hails from Los Angeles, where he worked for the LA Daily News, the Pasadena Star-News and other papers. He’s a father of twins, director of lay servant ministries in the United Methodist Church and plays second base for the Old Cowtown vintage baseball team.

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