City Council paves way for outdoor gun range

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March 16th, 2016

Omaha City Seal in the Legislative Chambers

Omaha City Seal in the Legislative Chambers

The Omaha Police Department is one step closer to getting an outdoor shooting range at the Police & Fire Training Facility. Omaha City Council members discussed the plan during Tuesday’s Council meeting


Councilman Franklin Thompson gave the invocation at Tuesday’s meeting. He used the opportunity to comment on the lack of civility concerning national politics.

What good does it do for me to be a rich man, or wise, or smart, or a degreed person, democrat or republican, and then I abuse my privileges when I’m on a microphone?” Thompson asked. “I can be smart and rich and still go to hell wearing gasoline underwear.”

 

Turning to regular agenda items, Council members approved three new keno locations in Omaha. McFly’s Center Street Tavern, The Taco Mill in West Omaha, and the Welcome Inn Tavern in South Omaha are Big Red Keno’s newest satellite locations.

Council members then went from talking bets, to talking blasts.

The Council voted unanimously to lift the ban on outdoor shooting at the joint Police and Fire Training Facility. The vote was delayed twice so city leaders could meet with concerned landowners.

Deputy City Attorney Bernard in den Bosch told the Council the landowners had three primary concerns; the potential amount of noise coming from the facility, the hours of operation, and a history of breakdowns in communication between the training facility’s administration and residents.

Since the facility is in an area zoned for industrial use, in den Bosh said the noise coming from the shooting range will actually be about 15 decibels quieter than what is technically allowed. Also, he said the range will only be used from 9am to 4pm, Monday thru Friday. No weekends. No holidays, and mostly just March thru October.

As far as communication, in den Bosch told the Council a committee will be created to promote communication between the training facility and those living near it.

In den Bosch said, “We’ve agreed to the extent that we make any effort to modify the conditional use permit for the use of this property in the future, that we will provide information to the neighbors at least 90 days before that action is introduced to any public body, and we will provide that notice to anyone within a two mile radius of the Police & Fire Training Center.

In 2000, the sitting City Council banned the outdoor discharge of firearms at the training facility as part of an agreement with landowners.

Shawn Melotz is one of those landowners. On Tuesday, she told the Council she appreciated their efforts to work with landowners, but the City is still going back on its promises.

“This new agreement, while appreciated, is again requiring landowners to acquiesce thereby and accept an outdoor gun range in our neighborhood,” Melotz said. “While many continue to oppose the outdoor discharge of firearms, and continue to have concerns regarding the noise impact, citizen safety, and yet another compromise, we believe it is in our best interest, and the best interest of the tax payers, to move forward and work with the City government for everyone’s sake.”

The new range is expected to cost just over $2 million. The FBI has already pledged to pay for half.

And the architectural, engineering, and consulting firm HDR, Inc is one step closer to building its new worldwide headquarters in downtown Omaha.

According to current plans, HDR’s new facility will be 14 to 15 floors of office and retail space, and includes a parking structure as part of the building design.

Bridget Hadley with the City’s planning department told Council members the project represents a major redevelopment opportunity in the City’s central business district.

“It also represents an opportunity to strengthen Omaha’s city-center image when we have major employers and businesses locate within the central business district,” Hadley said. “It is also an opportunity to reduce or eliminate the number of surface parking lots in the downtown area and to convert them into higher use.”

Hadley said the project also places city-owned land back on the tax rolls, and bolsters downtown Omaha as a destination to create more pedestrian activity.

HDR said it will cost $152 million to build its new headquarters, and asked the Council to allocate almost $21 in tax increment financing for the project. TIF money can only be used for certain things like site work, engineering fees, and public improvements.

Last year, the Council passed a resolution urging businesses seeking more than $100,000 in TIF funds, to put economic inclusion plans in their proposals.

Community Activist Spencer McGruder said he’s not opposed to the HDR project, but takes issue with how the TIF money was allocated. McGruder said HDR did not put any economic inclusion plans in its TIF application.

 

“They are leaders in engineering and design, and I would hope they would show leadership within the development community to show how economic inclusion can be incorporated into a much needed project,” McGruder said.

Councilman Chris Jerram said he took exception to McGruder’s remarks, and said he knows for a fact—through several meetings with HDR—that the company is indeed committed to economic inclusion and working with Omaha’s SEB’s.

Council President Ben Gray said it was important to hold off judgment, because as of Tuesday, HDR didn’t even own the land where the new building would be constructed.

“I’m convinced, along with my colleagues, that HDR is going to go above and beyond — in terms of diversity and inclusion,” Gray said. “Once these preliminary steps have been handled and taken care of…HDR has a plan in place that I’m convinced is one of the better ones I’ve seen until now.”

A lawyer for HDR said the firm will release more details on its economic inclusion plans as the project develops and bids to individual contractors are awarded…a story KVNO News will be following in the coming months.

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