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Lyon County Zoning Officer Sam Seeley [far right] speaks with attendees of Thursday’s commercial zoning workshop.

The ELC-Z zoning workshop series continued Thursday evening as community members gathered inside the Trusler Business Center for a talk on commercial topics.

Lyon County Zoning Officer Sam Seeley and City of Emporia Zoning Officer Joe Foster stressed proposed changes to commercial zoning regulations would mainly focus on offering more “flexibility” around Emporia. Rather than simply moving onto commercial plats, the proposed zoning handbook allows new businesses to move onto “mixed-use high” and “mixed-use low” parcels. As with currently-used structures in agricultural and industrial zones, existing commercial buildings will not be re-zoned unless their original purpose changes significantly.

“With mixed-use, it’s going to be things in the middle of Commercial [Street] and downtown,” Seeley said. “There’s tons of different types of uses ranging from a sign or plumbing company with living quarters above it, to restaurants — you name it, it’s downtown … Traditional commercial is going to be your car lots, fast food restaurants, things with traditional kinds of builds like a large shopping center such as the Flinthills Mall. We want to see some of those areas that we usually consider just commercial become more multi-use.”

“Right now, mixed-use is just downtown .... that’s where you’re going to see those mixed-use [zones],” Foster added. “Our current requirements within the same area — the Central Business District — we don’t presently have any setback requirements there, and we don’t require parking and things like that. So, you’re not really going to see a lot of changes from how downtown buildings operate today to what we’re looking at here. The philosophy behind this is that what we have downtown works. People want to be there.”

The duo went on to clarify the meaning behind Emporia’s 11 districts, saying that much of the same mixed-use mindset applied in their creation as well. As the currently-proposed regulation map is only a draft, Foster said he hoped to see continued feedback from area residents regarding zone types, especially in districts which include many varying parcel uses.

“The regulating plan is the same thing as a future land use map,” Foster said. “All comprehensive plans have these built in, and it just kind of gives a possibility for future growth and what kind of zoning or land use is predicted for those parcels.”

Seeley again pointed to the fact that much of the new zoning regulations were created with the future in mind, meaning most would only apply to newly constructed buildings rather than existing structures, which would be grandfathered in.

“Something that we’ve changed with districts that we want to reiterate to everybody is that we used to base everything off whether an area was a residential district, an industrial district, an agricultural district and things like that,” Seeley added. “Districts have changed in the fact that they’re now a location in your town or neighborhood — for example the Downtown District, the South Emporia District, the Lyon County District and so on.

“These [pages in the document] are where you would first look to see where exactly you’re located at, and you would get an idea of the desired forms and uses that are occurring there. Each district will have a list of different parcel types that are allowed there for future developments.”

Those with questions on commercial zoning are encouraged to reach out to Foster through email at jfoster@emporia-kansas.gov or by phone at 343-4268. Seeley can also be reached at either sseeley@lyoncounty.org or 341-3471. The next ELC-Z workshop — over residential zoning — will be held from 6 - 8 p.m. Dec. 5 at the Civic Building, 111 E. 6th Ave. The most recent draft of the zoning handbook — which includes additional information on potential street, surfacing and landscaping regulations — can be accessed on both the city and county websites as well as the @LyCoPlanningZoningFPM Facebook page.

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