Division 4. Zoning Code

    Cross References: Planning, Chapters 2.135 and 18.05 TMC; community development, Chapters 2.45 and 3.40 TMC; buildings and building regulations, TMC Title 14; construction adjacent to flood control levees, TMC 17.20.010 et seq.; floodplain management, TMC 17.30.010 et seq.; subdivisions, TMC Title 18, Division 3.

    Editor’s Note: Printed herein are the city’s comprehensive zoning regulations, as adopted by Ord. No. 16425 on February 25, 1992, and as supplemented by the Topeka-Shawnee County metropolitan planning agency through August 22, 1994. The ordinance has also been adopted by the board of commissioners of Shawnee County and applies to unincorporated areas of Shawnee County. Amendments are indicated by parenthetical history notes following amended provisions. Obvious misspellings have been corrected without notation. For stylistic purposes, a uniform system of headings, catchlines, capitalization, citation to state statutes, and expression of numbers in text has been used to conform to the code of ordinances. The ordinance was originally adopted as Chapter 48 of the 1995 Code of Ordinances.

Chapter 18.50


18.50.010    Purpose.

18.50.020    District classification.

18.50.030    Conversion of existing districts.

18.50.040    Application of regulations to existing legal conforming uses.

18.50.050    District map.

18.50.060    Determining zoning district boundaries.

18.50.070    Annexed territory.

18.50.080    Vacated streets, alleys, etc.

18.50.090    Vesting of development rights.

18.50.100    Use and building restrictions.

18.50.110    Interpretation.

18.50.120    Enforcement.

18.50.130    Validity.

18.50.010 Purpose.

For the purpose of establishing and carrying out the several powers, duties, and privileges conferred upon the city of Topeka and Shawnee County, Kansas, in, under and by the laws of the state and to encourage the most appropriate use and development of land throughout the metropolitan area; to stabilize and conserve the value of property; to provide adequate air, light, and reasonable access; to secure safety from fire and other dangers; to prevent overcrowding of land; to avoid undue concentration of population; to improve the appearance of the metropolitan area; to facilitate the provisions of transportation, water, sewers, schools, parks and open space, and other community and public improvements; and in general, to promote the public health, safety and welfare; and to regulate and restrict the locations and use of buildings, structures and land for business, industry, dwelling, public and quasipublic and other specified uses, consistently and uniformly throughout; to regulate the area of yards and open space, the height, density, intensity and bulk of buildings and structures; and for said purposes, to divide the jurisdiction into districts of such number, shape and area as may be deemed necessary to carry out these regulations hereby established. In the development, execution, implementation and enforcement of the zoning regulations, it is recognized that there are some uses which, because of their very nature, are recognized as having serious objectionable operational characteristics and effects, thereby requiring special regulation of these uses to ensure that these characteristics and effects will not contribute to the blighting or downgrading of the surrounding neighborhood. (Code 1995 § 48-1.00.)

18.50.020 District classification.

For the purpose of regulating and restricting the location and use of buildings and the use of land including the height, density, intensity, bulk and area of yards and open space for dwellings, business, industry, conservation, floodplain or other purposes deemed necessary, the jurisdiction is hereby divided into the following districts:


Residential reserve district


Single-family dwelling district


Single-family dwelling district


Single-family dwelling district


Manufactured home district


Two-family dwelling district


Limited multiple-family dwelling district


Multiple-family dwelling district


Multiple-family dwelling district


Office and institutional district


Office and institutional district


Office and institutional district


Commercial district


Commercial district


Commercial district


Commercial district


Light industrial district


Heavy industrial district


Planned unit development district


University district


Medical service district


Mixed use district


Mixed use district


Mixed use district


Open space district


Downtown district


Downtown district


Downtown district

The historic landmark overlay district (HL) as provided in Chapter 18.255 TMC is hereby incorporated by reference as if fully set forth herein. Any property so designated will be reflected on the official zoning map. (Ord. 20062 § 3, 4-18-17.)

18.50.030 Conversion of existing districts.

The districts and boundaries thereof are reclassified in accordance with the following:

(a) A single-family dwelling district converts to R-1 single-family dwelling district.

(b) B single-family dwelling district converts to R-2 single-family dwelling district.

(c) C two-family dwelling district converts to M-1 two-family dwelling district.

(d) D multiple-family dwelling district converts to M-2 multiple-family dwelling district.

(e) All remaining property classified E multiple-family dwelling district converts to M-3 multiple-family dwelling district.

(f) E-1 high-rise multiple-family dwelling district converts to M-4 multiple-family dwelling district. M-4 multiple-family dwelling district converts to M-3 multiple-family dwelling district.

(g) D&O multiple-family dwelling and office district converts to either M-2 multiple-family dwelling district or O&I-1 office and institutional district.

(h) F neighborhood shopping district converts to C-2 commercial district.

(i) G commercial district converts to C-4 commercial district.

(j) H business district converts to C-5 commercial district. C-5 commercial district converts to D-1 downtown district.

(k) I light industrial district converts to I-1 light industrial district.

(l) J heavy industrial district converts to I-2 heavy industrial district.

(m) U-1 university district converts to U-1 university district.

(n) U-2 university community district converts to M-3 multiple-family dwelling district.

(o) A, B, C, D, and E single-, two-family and multiple-family dwelling districts and community unit plan district, D&OP multiple-family dwelling and office park district, G commercial and shopping center unit district, G commercial and planned business center district, I-P industrial park district, and planned unit development convert to the PUD planned unit development district. Those developments heretofore assigned a planned unit district in conjunction with another district as set forth above, and assigned the PUD district upon the adoption of these regulations, shall be restricted to the use, dimensional, and general provisions of the conversion district of the classification in which said property was heretofore assigned.

(p) U-3 university service district, and conditional use permits (all city of Topeka); and special use permits (as issued by either the city of Topeka or Shawnee County) shall cease as classifications and as permit eligible uses effective with the conversion date of these regulations; and all existing uses as heretofore provided for by the district and/or by the aforementioned permits of record may continue pursuant to the provisions of TMC 18.50.040; and further, any conditions, limitations, stipulations and/or other provisions set forth within the resolution granting a site specific conditional or special use permit shall continue to apply and remain in effect with the adoption of these regulations.

(q) Where newly created district classifications are provided herein, the boundary of such districts shall be established by ordinance within the city of Topeka, Kansas, all in accordance with Chapter 18.245 TMC. (Ord. 20062 § 4, 4-18-17.)

18.50.040 Application of regulations to existing legal conforming uses.

The regulations shall not apply in respect to the continued use of any building or land which use was in conformity with the use regulations then existing, and shall not prevent the restoration of such building damaged by fire, explosion, act of God, or public enemy; nor prevent the continuance of the use of such building or part thereof as such use existed at the time of damage; nor prevent the expansion, enlargement or structural alteration thereto; provided, however, that the integrity of the original structure is not substantially reduced or eliminated. Whenever there is to be a change in general use classification of any building or land subsequent to the effective date of these regulations the same shall only be accomplished in accordance with the provisions of these regulations and in a district in which it is permitted. All existing structures or buildings, the use of which is in accordance with the use regulations of the district in which they are located, are hereby declared to be in conformity with the dimensional requirements of the assigned district herein upon the date of adoption of these regulations. Provided further, all single-family dwelling buildings, existing as legal conforming uses, upon the adoption of these regulations and the use of which is not in accordance with the use regulations of the assigned district in which they are located, may be enlarged, structurally altered, and accessory structures erected, and are hereby declared to be in conformity with the dimensional requirements herein upon the date of adoption of these regulations. Mobile home parks may continue for such purposes, including the replacement of individual mobile home units. In no event shall the number of mobile home units exceed the total number of placement sites within the boundary of a mobile home park; provided, that required and applicable approved development plans are of record with the appropriate governmental jurisdiction in respect to the location and number of planned placement sites. (Code 1995 § 48-1.03.)

18.50.050 District map.

The boundaries of the districts established herein or as they may be amended from time to time shall be recorded on the district map on file in the office of the metropolitan planning agency. (Code 1995 § 48-1.04.)

    Cross References: Planning department, TMC 2.25.090.

18.50.060 Determining zoning district boundaries.

In determining boundaries of zoning districts as shown on the district map, the following rules shall apply:

(a) The district boundaries are the city limits or the centerlines of rights-of-way including: streets, alleys, railways, creeks, streams, rivers, or drainage channels.

(b) Where the district boundaries are not otherwise indicated and where the property has been or may hereafter be divided into blocks and lots, the district boundaries shall be construed to be the lot lines, and where the districts are bounded approximately by lot lines, the lot lines shall be construed to be the boundary of the districts unless the boundaries are otherwise indicated on the map.

(c) In properties that are not subdivided, the district boundary lines on the map shall be determined by use of the scale appearing on the map. (Ord. 19569 § 1, 5-24-11.)

18.50.070 Annexed territory.

All territory hereinafter annexed by the city of Topeka shall retain its zoning classification of record as established by county resolution; provided, that the city shall have the right to rezone the annexed territory subsequent to annexation or at the time of annexation. (Code 1995 § 48-1.06.)

18.50.080 Vacated streets, alleys, etc.

Whenever any street, alley, or other public way is vacated by official action of the governing body, the zoning districts adjoining each side of such street, alley or public way shall be automatically extended to the center of such vacation and all area included in the vacation shall then and henceforth be subject to all appropriate regulations of the extended districts. (Code 1995 § 48-1.07.)

    Cross References: City council – mayor, Chapter 2.15 TMC.

18.50.090 Vesting of development rights.

For the purpose of single-family residential developments, development rights in such land use shall vest upon recording a plat of such land. If construction is not commenced on such land within five years of recording a plat, the development rights in such expire. For all purposes other than single-family developments, the right to use land for a particular purpose shall vest upon the issuance of all permits required for such use by a city or county and construction has begun and substantial amounts of work have been completed under a validly issued permit. The governing body may provide in zoning regulations for earlier vesting of development rights; however, vesting shall occur in the same manner for all uses of land within a land use classification under the adopted zoning regulations. (Code 1995 § 48-1.08.)

    Cross References: City council – mayor, Chapter 2.15 TMC.

18.50.100 Use and building restrictions.

(a) Except as hereinafter provided:

(1) No person shall use any premises for a use other than those permitted in the district in which such premises are located.

(2) No building shall be erected, enlarged or structurally altered unless it shall be designed to make the premises conform to the regulations for the district in which the premises are located.

(b) The use of buildings and land, and the regulations herein shall be uniform for each district but may differ from those regulations in other districts.

(c) The use regulations shall not apply to:

(1) Public utilities such as poles, wires, cables, conduits, vaults, laterals, pipes, mains, valves, hydrants, or other similar facilities located on public rights-of-way or public easements and operated by a public utility as a franchise holder from the city of Topeka or Shawnee County, Kansas; and including water lines, sewer lines and similar facilities owned and operated by the city of Topeka or Shawnee County, Kansas, except the following which shall be subject to the use regulations:

(i) Substations; booster stations; pump stations; distribution stations;

(ii) Treatment plants; transmission equipment buildings; and

(iii) Towers or reservoirs and similar uses facilitating utility transmission, distribution, and collection systems.

(2) Railroad right-of-way and all uses in conjunction with such railroad operations. Nonrailroad use upon any railroad right-of-way or other property shall conform to these regulations.

(3) The temporary use of land in conjunction with, and exclusively for, a specific construction project, and conditional to the following restrictions and requirements:

(i) Public Works Construction Projects. The temporary use of any land located either on the site of construction or off-site is permitted which is in conjunction with a project by a governmental entity. Such uses shall include topsoil or fill-dirt extraction, and the location of an asphaltic concrete and/or portland cement concrete plant. However, said plants shall be located a minimum distance of 400 feet from the nearest residential dwelling unit. Distances less than 400 feet may only be permitted by action of the metro board of appeals.

(ii) Other Construction Projects. The temporary use of land in conjunction with a construction project is permitted wherein the temporary use is located upon the site of the project; however, the temporary use of an asphaltic concrete and/or portland cement concrete plant shall be located a minimum distance of 400 feet from the nearest residential dwelling. Distances less than 400 feet may only be permitted by action of the metro board of appeals.

(iii) The temporary use of land for any construction project as set forth above is subject to the approval by the applicable public works director of the political subdivision in which the temporary use is located. Further, said temporary use of land shall not commence until such time that a permit has been granted by the above referenced public works director after first consulting with the planning director; and said permit may include conditions, limitations, and requirements as may be required by other applicable laws, statutes and codes, or as may be determined by the public works director in order to provide for the public health, safety, comfort, and welfare of the community. The public works director may, at his or her discretion, deny such temporary use.

(4) Exceptions. The appropriate city or county building official or governing body shall have the authority to permit certain exceptions to the district regulations set forth as follows, by the issuance of a permit maintaining conditions governing design, construction, operation and/or expiration of the exception, so as to adequately safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of citizens of Topeka and unincorporated Shawnee County.

(i) Exception for Manufactured Homes.

(A) Replacement of an existing single-wide mobile home or manufactured home with another manufactured home on the same lot or parcel; provided the existing unit was allowed by permit and is otherwise in conformance with all other applicable zoning regulations including the development regulations contained within Chapter 18.85 TMC as well as the wastewater management plan.

(B) Within the unincorporated areas of Shawnee County, the temporary placement of a manufactured home as a second dwelling on an existing lot or parcel, in instances of extreme hardship or necessity, not based on financial considerations, as determined by the board of commissioners, provided:

1. The applicant shall justify and attest to the hardship or reason for requesting said exception in a notarized affidavit; and

2. The applicant shall agree that the exception may be granted for a one-time period not to exceed 18 months; provided, however, that at such time the hardship or reason of necessity shall cease and become null and void and the temporary manufactured home shall be removed; and

3. The placement of the temporary manufactured home shall otherwise comply with the comprehensive zoning regulations, wastewater management plan, and all other applicable restrictions and regulations.

(5) The use regulations and dimension requirements of each zoning district shall not apply to agricultural buildings.

(d) Other General Requirements.

(1) Prior to the construction of any development or excavation within 1,000 feet of any flood protection facility, a certificate of approval shall be obtained from the city or county engineer, as applicable.

(2) Any or all development authorized by these regulations shall be subject to other applicable codes, regulations, or policies as adopted by the city of Topeka, Shawnee County, Kansas, and the state of Kansas, as appropriate.

(3) Burial of human remains on residentially zoned property is prohibited except as may specifically be provided for herein.

(4) Frontage as required herein shall be continuous in both dimension and extension, and further provided, the subject street frontage is improved to applicable standards or is guaranteed to be improved through appropriate surety. When applicable, the entire frontage shall include all right-of-way abutting, adjacent or coincident with such development site, including corner lots. For purposes of unplatted property, “frontage” shall not include or recognize those segments, sides or portions of the tract or parcel perimeter which restrict and prohibit vehicular ingress/egress; and further, “frontage” shall not include the cross-section width of a stub street as defined by this division. (Ord. 19328 § 2, 11-3-09. Code 1995 § 48-1.09.)

    Cross References: City council – mayor, Chapter 2.15 TMC; planning department, TMC 2.25.090; public works department, TMC 2.25.110.

18.50.110 Interpretation.

These regulations shall be held to be the minimum requirements for the promotion of the public safety, health, convenience, comfort, morals, prosperity and general welfare. These regulations are not intended to interfere with or abrogate or annul any ordinance, resolution, rules, regulations or permits previously adopted or issued, and not in conflict with any of the provisions of this division, or which shall be adopted, or issued pursuant to law relating to the use of buildings or premises, and likewise, not in conflict with this division; nor is it intended by this division to interfere with or abrogate or annul any easements, covenants or other agreements between parties, except that if this division imposes a greater restriction, this division shall control. Whenever there is a conflict with respect to the interpretation of these regulations, the legal department of the appropriate jurisdiction shall issue a declaration of findings which shall be observed until such time as the division is amended. For a determination as to the use regulations, the legal department shall base its determination on the Standard Industrial Code, and other recognized sources or materials. (Code 1995 § 48-1.10.)

    Cross References: Legal department, TMC 2.25.070.

18.50.120 Enforcement.

It shall be the duty of the planning director or designee to enforce these regulations. The planning director or designee may require site plans and other building plans as necessary to determine compliance with these regulations prior to the issuance of a building permit or the use of property subject to these regulations. Appeal from the decision of the planning director or designee may be made to the board of zoning appeals. (Ord. 20062 § 5, 4-18-17.)

    Cross References: Planning department, TMC 2.25.090; board of zoning appeals, Chapter 2.120 TMC.

18.50.130 Validity.

Should any section or provision of these zoning regulations be determined to be unconstitutional or invalid, the same shall not affect the validity of the regulations as a whole or any part thereof other than the part so determined to be unconstitutional. (Code 1995 § 48-1.12.)