Omaha City Council Approves Plan to Build New Dorms/Parking Garage


September 30th, 2015


The Omaha City Council made their way through a marathon meeting Tuesday afternoon. The public hearing concerning a proposed storage unit facility in West Omaha lasted more than an hour, but a Council decision will take weeks.

The Omaha City Council spent the majority of their three-hour meeting discussing four agenda items—the first of which dealt with a proposal from the University of Nebraska at Omaha to build new dormitories and a parking garage around 64th and Pine, near Aksarben Village.

The plan calls for a 1200-unit parking structure to be built into the side of a hill running along 67th street between Pine and Pacific Streets. Larry Joven, a representative for UNO, told the Council both the dorms and parking garage will meet the City’s urban design standards, which are in place to keep aesthetic appeal in mind during construction.

But that’s not enough to convince some neighbors the garage should be built.

One woman said, “Unless they’re going to build this thing using invisible bricks and mortar, the homeowners alongside in the neighborhood will not be able to avoid seeing this building. You can’t not see a six-story piece of concrete that is practically right outside your front door.”

 UNO’s Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance, Bill Conley, told Council members both the new student dorms and parking garage were essential to meeting the University’s goal of growing its student population to 20,000 by 2020.

“The location is really ideal because it’s adjacent to the new housing, so without crossing a major street, those 464 new students that [will be] living on campus can now get to their cars without crossing the street, and safety is certainly a big issue for us as well,” Conley said, “and [the location] just works out the best for us because it’s a parcel of land that’s really not ideal for anything else.”

The Council gave the greenlight to the parking garage and new student dorms by a vote of 7-0.

The next major item the Council dealt with was a resolution to grant a special use permit so a storage facility can be built at 204th and Farnam streets, in West Omaha. Developer Daryl Leise wants to build a 700 unit facility; 400 units would be in an inside-controlled storage structure, similar to other facility plans the Council recently approved. However, the 300 external units in Leise’s plan are being called a “deal-breaker” by opponents.

Rex Moats is one of those opponents. He said, “Imagine being at Memorial Stadium and you’re looking down at Tom Osborne Field. Now imagine almost five of those Tom Osborne Fields, filled with storage units. This is 4.79 acres of storage units that is going to be in there. It’s overwhelming, and for it to be on a main corridor, in and out of West Omaha, I just think the project is too dense.”

After well over an hour of public hearings, in a tight 4-3 vote, the Council laid over the resolution for three weeks, meaning they won’t make a decision until that time.

The Council moved quickly to approve nine liquor licenses for new and established businesses, before spending time discussing an agenda item which originally appeared before the Council in April.

At issue was whether the Council should allow the City to enter into an agreement with LeadsOnline, a private contractor used by law enforcement to share crime data from pawn shops and scrap yards. Councilwoman Amy Melton didn’t like the phrasing LeadsOnline used in its contracts with private businesses.

Tina Jennum with the Omaha Police Department said the Council should approve the contract agreement so law enforcement officers can better do their jobs.

“I’m asking you to trust 28,000 other businesses that are already entering information into LeadsOnline,” Jennum told Council members, “I’m asking you to trust 3,400 other police agencies that are using LeadsOnline.”

 The Council voted 6-1 to approve the contract with LeadsOnline, worth about $53,000 a year.

The last significant agenda item discussed during Tuesday’s meeting was in regards to the City’s policy on panhandling. A proposed measure to repeal a portion of the City’s panhandling ordinance would, in effect, allow the homeless and poor to ask for money in the streets, but bar fire fighters from doing the same during organized donation drives.

Councilman Chris Jerram said the Council shouldn’t be quick to rush to pass new legislation to deal with a decades old problem.

“Go slow,” Jerram said, “because there’s a lot of unintended consequences. There’s [sic] a lot of things we haven’t thought about. I would say let’s lay this over for 6-8 weeks.”

 The Council heeded Jerram’s advice, voting to lay over the topic for 7 weeks.

And while public discussion was held at a previous meeting, Council members did officially ban flying lanterns from Omaha’s skies.

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