City commissioners review planning and zoning guidelines, hear biodiesel and "Biker" presentations

City commissioners had a lengthy study session Wednesday, dedicating most of that time to a planning and zoning workshop.


Topeka attorney Jim Kaup wrote and assembled a guide to comprehensive planning for municipalities to follow as they dealt with planning and zoning issues. Kaup said comprehensive planning was not required by law, but rather is encouraged. Mayor Jon Geitz says the commission wanted to learn more from an expert in the field.

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This follows the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission's periodic review of the comprehensive plan and future land use map. Geitz said Kaup offered some helpful recommendations for future use.

Following that lengthy topic, the commission heard an update from the Renewable Energy Group on the status of a biodiesel plant on hold in Emporia. The plant has been in construction limbo since 2008. REG's Director of Corporate Affairs Scott Hedderich presented to the commission the progress REG is making in the industry, and some bumps in the road ahead. Hedderich says the past couple of years have been good, and REG has every intention of finishing their works in-progress.

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REG is upgrading their plants to accept multi-feed stock, or different types of oils, in order to increase their profitability, and therefore invest that new income into unfinished plants. Hedderich said this year's finances are still uncertain, as are some governmental regulations in the pipeline regarding biofuels and alternative energy production. Hedderich said the Emporia plant is important because of it's location on the map -- it would give REG access to markets further west, and eventually help build a biofuel infrastructure across the nation.

Geitz said REG has been "good corporate citizens," keeping to their incentive-compliance agreement. Geitz said the commission is hopeful to hear more about the company's progress within the next 12 to 18 months.

At the start of the meeting, commissioners heard from Emporia State University students who pitched their business idea "Biker," the bicycle rental kiosks, at the 3D Competition earlier this month. Group member Soojin Bae, an international student from South Korea, said the bike rental program would give all students some freedom.

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Students would be able to swipe their credit or debit card at the kiosk and rent a bicycle for a couple of hours or a full day. The rental kiosks would be operated as a private/public partnership, and be mostly self-sustaining over time. Commissioners agreed this was a good idea, and will be exploring it with the group members further.

Because of the timeframe of this meeting, commissioners were not able to talk about the curbside recycling project. They will delve into that topic at their next meeting.


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