Keeping Norfolkans happy

September 27, 2018

“Our goal is to help make our citizens happy.”

That’s what Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning said recently at a meeting with citizens about the proposed expansion of a special riverfront overlay district along the North Fork of the Elkhorn River.

That’s the kind of statement any elected official worth his or her salt should make because it shows an interest in constituents’ well-being. That said, most every elected official also knows it’s not always possible to accomplish. Sometimes, tough decisions are required that don’t make all constituents happy but are necessary nonetheless.

It’s also possible that some Norfolkans — upon reading the above quote from the mayor — proceed to roll their eyes, or say something cynical in nature. Such can be the relationship between voters and elected officials.

But in this particular case, not only were the words spoken by Mr. Moenning appropriate, they were also accurate.

About 50 people turned out for the public meeting on the riverfront overlay district and many of them were concerned about the same general issue: Would the aesthetic-related restrictions and guidelines that accompany the district apply to their existing property?

The answer was a definitive “no” as expressed many times by the mayor and other city representatives.

Another pertinent question was whether a house or business — that, for example, is destroyed by fire — be subject to the overlay district requirements when being rebuilt?

Here’s what the mayor said in response: City code takes into account that kind of scenario. Property owners could apply for a waiver so the property could be rebuilt or restored to how it was previously. The waiver process makes “clear exceptions” for natural disasters.

City council member Gary Jackson added this: “You’re not going to be forced to conform to these standards. We’re not punishing you for living where you live.”

From our perspective, their words of explanation and assurance should serve to dispel any rumors, myths or perceptions about the riverfront overlay district. It’s designed to guide future construction along the river, not penalize those who already own property there.

All of which should mean that, at least in this case, elected officials in Norfolk are committed to keeping citizens happy. The overlay district is an important tool in helping to create a riverfront area that everyone can be pleased with and proud of.

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