Making a midnight laundry run? Maybe not for long in Brookhaven

Published 4:00 pm Thursday, April 7, 2022

A proposed city ordinance will limit the hours businesses can be open and unattended.

The ordinance — which the Brookhaven Board of Aldermen approved 7-0 this week — says any indoor business open to the public that has no attendant on site cannot operate between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

The ordinance does not affect any business with a locked door that members or customers can access with a key or a code, such as a gym with a coded door lock. The ordinance also will not affect outdoor business, such as gas pumps customers can access after the convenience store or gas station itself is closed.

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Alderman-at-Large Don Underwood said the ordinance was written to address concerns expressed to several aldermen.

“With no supervision, it tends — if not to encourage — to enable a gathering point where folks complain about what’s going on there,” Underwood said. “It’s a public safety, neighborhood issue.”

Brookhaven Police Chief Kenneth Collins stated on multiple occasions at City Board meetings his concerns that such gatherings often lead to criminal activity. But little can be done if a business owner does not complain about crowds gathering on private property, and an officer is not always available to constantly police the area.

The ordinance will limit the hours of operation so that such a business cannot operate between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. The only two solutions for such a business would be to either have an attendant on site during the affected hours, or to close operation during that time.

While in theory the ordinance may have broad reach, it will currently impact few businesses — primarily laundromats open 24 hours without an attendant present.

“It’s not just laundromats. It applies to any business that does not have an attendant,” Underwood said. “That’s the key — and does not have a controlled access entry. The concern had been raised about activities at these places because there was no oversight. People hanging out all night, possible drug involvement, things like that.”

Another proposed ordinance will also affect where laundromats can be located within the city. Under the ordinance, a new laundromat must be located in a C-3 commercial zone, known as “highway commercial.” Businesses along Hwy. 51 and Brookway Boulevard are C-3 zoned.

Existing laundromats would not be affected, even if they are located in C-1 or C-2 neighborhood commercial areas.

“I think there are seven around town,” Underwood said. “But they’ll be grandfathered in if they’re not zoned correctly. They will not be affected if they remain in continual operation.”

A public hearing will take place at 5:30 p.m. May 3, to give residents and business owners an opportunity to voice their opinions on the measures. The hearing will be in the city boardroom of the Lincoln County/Brookhaven Governmental Complex on South First Street.

If no objections are raised at the hearing that result in changes to the proposed ordinance, the ordinance will take effect 30 days later.

“The Planning Commission and city engineers will then get involved on the proposed rezoning,” Underwood said. “Zoning requires public input. As representatives of the citizens, you often hear only one side. A public hearing allows you to hear from all sides.”