Omaha should cut down on suburban sprawl, restructure incentives for inner-city development and do a better job sharing data between government departments, according to a new report from IBM business consultants.
The city was one of 33 communities that received a grant last year for a study. A team of five consultants visited Omaha in October to assess the city's planning and development efforts and offer their recommendations.
Monday, the city released the consultants' final report.
The team noted that Omaha has fared well during challenging times for the economy, but expressed concerns about the city's pattern of building west into suburban areas. The consultants said creating areas with lower population density has affected “the city's financial stability, the sustainability of service levels and potential for long-term economic growth.”
As a result, the report suggests that the city should do more to recover costs from suburban development, including linking property tax rates to population density, with people in low-density areas paying more. Newly annexed subdivisions, the report said, could come with “special-impact” fees and the city could charge a higher rate for providing services such as garbage collection, road maintenance and parks for areas farther removed from the city's core.
Mayor Jim Suttle, who is leaving office next week, said he'd like to see the recommendations spur conversation at City Hall.
“Omaha is committed to meeting our challenges with collaborative and innovative solutions,” he said in a statement. “It is my hope that the recommendations of the IBM team will generate important discussions among stakeholders throughout the city about Omaha's future economic growth strategy.”
Contact the writer: