After months of discussion, the Emporia City Commission approved an agreement to fund Ignite Emporia for one year with a 4-0 vote during an action session Wednesday afternoon.
Commissioners Jon Geitz, Becky Smith and Susan Brinkman, along with Mayor Danny Giefer, all voted in favor of putting $25,000 in funding toward the organization. Vice Mayor Rob Gilligan, who was recently named director of Ignite Emporia, abstained.
Ignite Emporia is a five-year strategic plan heralded by the Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce and is designed to focus on workforce development, housing development and revitalization, business retention and community development. The plan is being spearheaded by a campaign committee of more than 50 business and community leaders from different sectors, all with a common goal of strengthening Emporia and the surrounding community. To date, more than $1.1 million of a $1.6 million fundraising goal has been raised for the project.
Chamber President Jeanine McKenna initially approached the commission in July with a request for a commitment of $150,000 over five years. At the time, the city was uneasy about making a five-year commitment.
On Jan. 8, commissioners voted in favor of tabling the issue after Smith said she would feel more comfortable having a formal outline of where — and how — the money would be used for the project. That was completed by City Attorney Christina Montgomery prior to the Jan. 22 meeting.
McKenna, who attended Wednesday’s meeting, said she was pleased with the city’s decision.
“I think it helps us as we move forward,” she said. “It helps with our current funders to know that the city is behind us and that we are moving forward, because we are doing exciting things. I’m very grateful for their support, and that, we got here.”
McKenna acknowledged that the road to getting the city on board was not as smooth as she would have liked, but she understood that the city does not make investments lightly. She said Ignite Emporia will provide progress reports to all of its investors — including the city — as the project moves forward.
“They are an investor, just like our other 70-plus investors that we have to be held accountable to,” she said. “They will be getting continual updates and reports on where we are. They are an investor now, and they will be treated as one as we give them frequent and regular updates on our progress.”
City Manager Mark McAnarney said the city’s contribution to Ignite Emporia is coming out of the Industrial Fund.
Commissioners also approved several requests related to properties located around Emporia.
The first was an approval for the creation of the final plat for the Riverside Addition Subdivision, an 11-plot housing development which will be located south of Riverside Elementary School off of South West Street. The average lot size will be a little more than 10,000-square feet each.
Realtor Lynn Cunningham is developing the project.
Commissioners then approved an ordinance to re-zone two parcels from restricted commercial zoning to high-density residential zoning. The lots are located at 1610 and 1600 W. 15th Ave., adjacent to the Emporia Surgical Hospital. Applicant Clint Arndt told the Planning Commission that he plans to build a “home-plus” assisted living center that would have a maximum of 12 beds per unit on each lot. The units would be long-term living units for residents who do not drive — meaning there would not be a need for a large parking facility. Two full-time staff members would be located at each building.
“This area, when it was platted as the surgical center, was platted to meet requirements for potential new developments,” Planning and Zoning Specialist Joe Foster said. “The Planning Commission did give recommendation to approve this unanimously, 7 — 0.”
Geitz asked if concerns about run-off complaints had been considered during conversations about this project. The city receives complaints about water run-off and drainage issues in the area.
“I looked into the existing pond that is there and they are going to have to do a little bit of stormwater [work] on their site,” City Engineer Jim Ubert said. “Any additional run-off, we will need to address that.”
Foster said he agreed that any run-off issues would need to be taken care of beforehand.
Commissioners also approved a request to annex multiple properties into city limits as part of the Emporia Municipal Airport’s runway extension project. The properties, which have already been acquired by the city, just need to be annexed to meet Federal Aviation Administration regulations.
A final request to vacate utility easements for two lots in the Zirnstein Addition to facilitate the build of a new home was also approved.