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Laundromat Plans Spur Zoning Discussion in Covington

Rick Salomone wants to open a fourth location for City Limits Laundry & Tan and wants it in Covington. He finally settled on a space for his first Northern Kentucky location after checking out a vacant commercial building on the 1600 block of Madison Avenue, in the same strip that houses the newer Save-a-Lot grocery store.

Trouble is, that part of Covington falls under "commercial-general" zoning where laundromats are a prohibited use.

Salomone and his real estate agent Gene Archbald sought assistance from the Covington City Commission last week, arguing that City Limits is not a typical laundromat. "We do things a little bit different," Salomone told the commission. "It's wide open, it's spacious with modern decor. Fifty washer and dryers, ceramic tiles, six or seven flat-screen TVs, a snack bar.

"The demographics are very strong to support it."

Salomone did his homework on the surrounding area. Its high density population and high number of renters is why he's convinced City Limits would succeed there, even without the tanning portion of the business which he does not plan to bring to Covington.

The issue last Tuesday was for the commission to authorize the filing of an application to the Kenton County Planning Commission for a text amendment to the zoning code that would allow the laundromat to locate there. It triggered a broader discussion about the need to reevaluate the way Covington handles its zoning.

"Sixteenth and Madison is a perfectly logical location for a laundromat," said City Commissioner Chuck Eilerman, who campaign last year on addressing zoning issues. He hopes that this conversation leads to a more intense examination of the city's zoning code, he said. "The fact that you're going through this is the reason we have to redo our zoning map."

City Commissioner Steve Frank agreed. ""If this makes perfect sense for this business to go there, let's not hassle him anymore," he said.

"I have a concern about it being a permanent use," said Mayor Sherry Carran. I'm OK with expanding it if it's conditional. I don't want to give (Salomone) a hard time but I'm not comfortable with making that a permanent zone."

Salomone sought the approval of a text amendment application in lieu of appearing before the city's board of adjustments which usually deals with questions of zoning in Covington. Archbald, the real estate agent, was concerned that if the board of adjustments denies the request for a zoning variance, the only subsequent option is to appeal to the Circuit Court. 

Salomone had already dealt with the limitations of zoning in Covington. A couple years ago he had wanted to open a new location on Madison Avenue where a Payless shoe store had operated, but the city does not allow free-standing laundromats at all. 

The city commission unanimously approved Salomone's application to seek the zoning variance from the Kenton County Planning Commission.

Covington would be fourth location for successful laundry brand

In 1999, Salomone and his brother sold the bar they had operated together on Colerain Avenue in Cincinnati, aptly called "Salomone's", but prior to the sale he had purchased a large building across the street so that its parking lot could be used for the bar. Once he no longer had a bar, Salomone wondered what he could do with the large space.

"I started researching," he said, after a laundromat was suggested. "I checked out laundromat/tanning places in Indianapolis and Columbus." Then he opened the first City Limits Laundry & Tanning right there on Colerain Avenue. Then he opened a second in Clifton and, after starting a family, a third location in Covedale. 

He knew that a fourth location would open somewhere in Northern Kentucky and he checked out Newport and Covington. "I always look at demographics. Lots of renters, high density," he said.

Settling on Covington, he hopes the zoning change is permitted so that he can bring a new kind of laundromat to town. The 3500 square feet space will host around fifty washers and dryers ("I focus on high-capacity washers."), flat-screen televisions, and a snack bar. That snack bar will also have a walk-up option for neighborhood residents.

"What I focus on is fast, clean, and friendly," he said. He wants his places to be priced reasonably, to be modern, and to offer comfort to his customers. 

He expects, after the zoning process, to begin construction on the space in the fall with a target opening date of early 2014.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

Photo: City Limits Laundry & Tanning on Crookshank Road in Cincinnati/RCN