City of Emporia Planning and Zoning Officer Joe Foster gave Emporia City Commissioners an overview on what was accomplished by the Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals in 2019 during a joint luncheon at Emporia Public Library Wednesday afternoon.
Foster said 2019 was a productive year, work continues on finalizing the PlanELC Zoning Regulations — a joint zoning regulations draft adopted by both city and county officials in Nov. 2017. Both the city and county have been working toward updating zoning regulations in preparation.
He said PlanELC takes the traditional regulation standards based on use and statistics away and moves to a form-based, place-based approach to regulate growth in a way that better fits the needs of the city and county as a whole.
It adds building standards for consistency, he said, with changes in use size and accessory units to support infill developments. It also helps to clarify confusion with the Metropolitan Planning Area, which Foster said will likely get absorbed by the county since most of that area is already zoned as agricultural-use.
A series of meetings were held toward the end of the year in which stakeholders from different sectors around the area could express concerns and ask questions about the upcoming changes.
“I felt like voices were heard,” Foster said. “We’re looking at our next draft [to be released] Feb. 14, and upon receiving that draft we’ll have a 30-day window period for receiving additional comments.”
Foster said he would like to see both the city and county adopt the final draft by the end of 2020. Before that can happen, public hearings will need to be held at both the city and county level with the planning commissions. Afterward, the city and county commissions would be charged with approval.
“I’d like to see that happen this year,” he said. “I know there are things that could come up and there could be a need to see a fourth draft or a fifth draft. I’d like to do this right and iron out all the kinks we have.”
PlanELC, like other zoning regulations and comprehensive plans, will be a living document that can be updated as needed. Still, Foster said he would like to see fewer updates right out of the gate.
Commissioners said they agreed with Foster that PlanELC should come out of the draft phase this year, if possible.
“I agree, we can’t continue to have draft five, draft six, draft seven,” Commissioner Jon Geitz said. “I think this has been a good, open, transparent process.”
The boards will also be looking at some other long- range projects in 2020, including updating floodplain maps, which were last updated in 2008.