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Goodwill of Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas files lawsuit against Olathe

Court documents cite discriminatory city ordinance
Goodwill of Western Missouri & Eastern Kansas
Posted at 4:06 PM, Mar 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-23 00:19:00-04

OLATHE, Kan. — Goodwill of Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas is taking city of Olathe to federal court over a city ordinance the nonprofit called discriminatory.

The suit, announced Monday, comes after the city denied Goodwill a license to operate at a new location.

After searching for nearly two years, Goodwill in Olathe signed a lease for a new spot at 135th Street and South Brougham Drive, but the deal was only in paper.

"We didn't think for a second that we wouldn't be able to move literally right down the street from where we had been operating for 19 years," Edward Lada Jr., president and CEO of Goodwill of Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas, said.

A city municipal code limits bails bond companies, pawn shops, payday and title loan and thrift stores from being within 200 feet of a residential neighborhood or within a mile of a similar business.

When the city modified the ordinance in 2016, Goodwill and other thrift stores were grandfathered in.

City documents state that the ordinance is intended to “reduce the proliferation” of such businesses near downtown Olathe and additional retail areas, where the businesses could negatively affect commercial property values.

However, court documents state that Goodwill has brought in roughly $1 million in revenue annually for the city and that Olathe leaders have provided “no evidence or reason to believe that two thrift stores within a mile of each other would have any negative impact on surrounding property values.”

Lada Jr. said lumping charitable and nonprofit organizations with "adult-type businesses" does not make sense.

"We're trying to be of service to the community," Lada Jr. said. "At the end of the day, we have third-party resellers that constantly come in our stores every day. Single mothers, families, professionals, they donate and shop."

The nonprofit met with its future neighbors and presented their proposed move in the Briarwood Home Owners Association newsletter. HOA president Todd Lynch told 41 Action News not a single person had a problem it.

Court documents also state that the HOA supported the move.

“Denying Goodwill the ability to open a store in the city serves no legitimate public purpose… the only conclusion one can reach is that the city has determined that it wants to disadvantage businesses that serve low-income customers,” court documents state. “In doing so, the city has violated Goodwill's rights under the United States Constitution and Kansas Constitution.”

In a statement to 41 Action News, city of Olathe spokesperson Jimmy Mack said that "given the fact that there is current litigation, please understand our position that it would be irresponsible for us to provide comment at this time."

"It's disappointing to see that we got that much resistance when we just want to be treated like any other business and continue to provide services that are much needed," Lada Jr. said.