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Mayor’s vote advances housing proposal

September 5, 2018

Two unrelated but equally contentious issues extended Tuesday night’s North Platte City Council meeting, forcing Mayor Dwight Livingston to use his tie-breaking powers to keep a proposed 41-home development alive and at least temporarily sidetrack a would-be BMX bicycle motocross track on city land.

The mayor cast the deciding vote to amend the city’s 2011 comprehensive plan so a vacant tract at West Philip and Dixie avenues could be rezoned from R-1, which allows low-density single-family lots, to R-2, which permits somewhat smaller single-family lots as well as duplexes. The amendment paves the way for subsequent public hearings before the Planning Commission and City Council on North Platte homebuilder Lonnie Parsons’ proposal to build single-family homes on the 8-acre tract.

Council members set up Livingston’s tie-breaker by deadlocking 4-4 on amending the comprehensive plan, with Councilmen Brook Baker, Jim Carman, Jim Nisley and Larry Pedersen voting against it and Councilmen Lawrence Ostendorf, Glenn Petersen, Andrew Lee and Martin Steinbeck favoring the move. The vote, the first of three Tuesday night related to the project, followed a lengthy debate in which neighbors passionately argued that the development would increase traffic congestion on Dixie Avenue and lower their property values by allowing smaller homes in their area.

In casting his tie-breaking vote, Livingston noted testimony by Planning Administrator Judy Clark that initial sketches of the development’s street layout could potentially be altered before Parsons’ proposal returns to the council. He also cited Parsons’ testimony Tuesday night that his homes would range between 1,600 and 2,000 square feet, compared with the target range of 1,400 to 1,500 square feet discussed during a Community Redevelopment Authority meeting last month as a category in which North Platte is experiencing a housing shortage. The lower range has never applied to his plan, Parsons said.

Council members exactly duplicated their 4-4 vote, with Livingston again voting in favor, on a subsequent ordinance to officially change the West Philip and Dixie tract’s zoning from R-1 to R-2. The council then voted 5-3, with Pedersen joining the previous “yes” votes, to vacate the tract’s existing plat from the time when Parkview Community Church of the Nazarene intended to build a new church there. The church still owns the land.

Despite Tuesday night’s trio of positive votes, council members’ ultimate judgment on Parsons’ housing plan — including his request for help from tax increment financing — is still a month away.

Parsons has said he will not buy the West Philip and Dixie tract from the church without TIF, which would divert property taxes generated by increased taxable values to help repay his expected $1.67 million city bill to install streets, utilities and other infrastructure. His purchase of the land from the church also would be covered by the TIF proposal, he said after Tuesday’s meeting.

Before the housing debate, Livingston cast a tie-breaking vote to reject a proposed license agreement with 308 BMX to enable it to build a bicycle motocross track on the South Park site at West Walker Road and Buffalo Bill Avenue.

The group’s leaders, who missed the council’s February deadline to raise $188,000 for the project, say they need the license to be able to secure grants and other financing.

But council members continued to closely question 308 BMX representatives and their attorney, Chawnta Durham, on details of the revised license agreement, the responsibilities the city would have to assume and the state of their fundraising commitments. The council tied 4-4 when the vote was called, with Petersen, Nisley, Pedersen and Ostendorf voting no and Baker, Carman, Lee and Steinbeck voting yes.

In voting against the license, Livingston said he still wasn’t satisfied with how the group was going to come up with the funds to build the BMX track. Though talks with 308 BMX can continue, he said, “as much as this pains me, I’m going to have to say no.”

In other business, the council:

» Held public hearings on the city’s proposed $150.3 million budget and property tax rate for 2018-19, which will be voted on at a special council meeting Thursday. Details on public comments during the hearing will be presented in Thursday’s Telegraph.

» Approved a seven-home replat of a vacant tract being developed by Wilk Brothers LLC at West A Street and Bare Avenue.

» Viewed a video presentation by North Platte real estate agent Rob Stefka on an upcoming Sept. 27 absolute auction of the former Hall Elementary School site north of North Platte. Stefka previewed his presentation before the Planning Commission Aug. 28.

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