After months of debate and discussion, Lyon County commissioners voted 2-1 Thursday to approve updated county zoning regulations as recommended by the County Planning and Appeals Board.
Among other alterations to residential, commercial and industrial zoning procedures, the new document focuses heavily on agricultural landscapes and rural properties, making several significant changes to code which has been used for the better part of the last 18 years.
Moving forward: all agricultural uses and structures will be exempt from zoning (with floodplain regulations still applying); a minimum of five acres will be needed for new construction; no building codes will be enforced in unincorporated areas within the county; fencing and other wall regulations will only apply to the City of Emporia; home occupations and businesses will no longer have a required number of employees; all 40-plus acre parcels will be considered agricultural in use (with parcels less than 40 acres classified either agricultural or non-agricultural according to Section 1.8.3 of the zoning regulations); and conditional use permits will not be needed to build homes on less than 40 acres of land.
Additionally, all currently zoned properties will be grandfathered in under the new regulations and existing floodplain regulations will not be changed. The zoning regulations will not be put into effect immediately, with further ratification from county commissioners necessary at a later date which has yet to be determined.
Throughout the nearly four-year long process of drafting the zoning documents, proponents have said they will help streamline construction for rural property owners by allowing an individual to avoid a potentially lengthy process in the event they decide to add a structure to their land, as well as allowing more freedom in regards to what can be built. The effort came as part of the larger city-county joint comprehensive plan which was approved by City of Emporia and Lyon County officials in 2017.
Commissioners Doug Peck and Scott Briggs voted to approve the new regulations Thursday, speaking on many of the same benefits.
“Before the surveys [were] sent out, there were numerous public meetings … where the public came together, and the comprehensive plan was drawn up by the wishes of the community at that time...” Briggs said. “This is obviously an agricultural community, and as commissioners, our goal is to preserve agriculture because that is the number one economic engine… The mission statement of Lyon County government is to create an environment of economic growth within a framework of fiscal responsibility and transparency to the people of Lyon County.”
“I’ve read through [the documents], I’ve listened to the Planning and Appeals Board, and I think they’ve done an outstanding job of addressing the concerns of the community as a whole,” added Peck.
On the other side of the issue, detractors have said the updates open the door for added confusion, unnecessary bureaucracy, a shifting local economy and the potential for governmental overreach into matters of private property. In addition to frequent input at government meetings from those opposing the changes (including several appearing to speak against the updates at the courthouse, Thursday), several protest petitions have also been circulated throughout rural Lyon County, with some gaining more than 1,000 signatures.
In issuing the board’s lone “nay” vote, Commissioner Rollie Martin addressed the community’s concerns along such lines, saying he believed further study and communication between residents and officials was needed in order for the regulations to be formally adopted.
“There’s the plan; then there’s the acceptance by the public of the plan,” Martin said. “Personally, I don’t think there’s enough acceptance or knowledge by the public with the plan to vote for it at this time.”
Copies of the new zoning documents can be read in their entirety at lyoncounty.org/index/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Final5.1_Sec1-6_112020.pdf and lyoncounty.org/index/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Final5.1_Sec7-10_112020.pdf.
During the meeting, commissioners also:
- Formally approved the county’s contract with new Public Health Officer Dr. Ladun Oyenuga. Moving forward, the one-year, $12,000 agreement will automatically renew on an annual basis.