The latest round of proposed changes to rural Lyon County zoning code failed a vote of the county Planning and Appeals Board 2-4 during a highly-attended public hearing at the Bowyer Community Building Wednesday evening.
The decision to reject the new documents will now head to Lyon County Commissioners, who will choose whether to ratify the results of the vote, overturn the vote and approve the updates — which was the original opinion of Planning Board members Mike Langley and Phillip Mott — or send the documents back to the board for more study.
The changes — among which included an elimination of the three-mile Metropolitan Planning Area around the City of Emporia in addition to a host of other updates regarding agriculture— were brought forth as part of an ongoing effort by local officials to adopt a comprehensive city-county zoning regulations document. Despite their proposed adherence to city guidelines, the county regulations would remain separate in the case of appeals if a joint document was passed, going before county commissioners for a final opinion.
In a lengthy public comment period, those in attendance voiced their concerns — and outright displeasure — with the proposed changes, with some seeing them as a form of “governmental overreach.” Many others viewed the updates as a way of “fixing something that wasn’t broken” despite an insistence by zoning officials that a comprehensive document would “streamline” the planning and appeals process.
“One, [the updated documents] are needlessly complex and difficult to understand,” said Wayne Simmons, a resident of rural Lyon County. “Number two, the requirements are excessive and not wanted or needed by the citizens of the county. Number three, it will be expensive to the citizens of Lyon County because they’re going to try to have to figure them out or hire someone to explain it to them.”
“My suggestion is, instead of throwing out the baby with the bath water, perhaps [the board] could take some of the changes in this proposal and incorporate them into what we already have without bringing in a lot of other stuff that most of us are not in favor of,” added Mary Shepherd.
After hearing comments from nearly a dozen attendees — some of whom approached the microphone on multiple occasions — planning board members had an opportunity to offer their perspective. Although eached voiced their ultimate recommendation of the updates, much of the approval was subdued, with most admitting there was still work to be done.
“I don’t think it’s perfect, and there were definitely a lot of things wrong in the first draft,” said Planning Board Member Michael Ratcliff. “I don’t think the fourth draft will be the last draft. We can go on with as many drafts as we need to until we find something that works.”
“It’s not perfect, and I admit that,” added Board Member Aaron Davis. “There’s been over 400 or 500 different revisions for this over the four different drafts and there will probably be another draft with more revisions. I agree with most of the people in this room that more regulations aren’t a good thing, but we do need them so that people just can’t do anything they want to. That’s why we have laws.”
After seeing the proposed updates rejected to a round of applause, board members recommended everyone in attendance familiarize themselves with the contents of the updated documents in order to provide more constructive feedback in future public hearings. Current drafts of the comprehensive plan can be accessed online at lyoncounty.org/index/government/departments/zoning/new-zoning-regulations-draft/. For more information, visit lyoncounty.org/index/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/LYCO_Proposed_2020_ZRegs_Fact-Sheet.pdf.
The Gazette will continue to provide updates to this story as it develops.