Bellevue public works deal up in air pending FEMA aid approval

On Oct. 1, the Bellevue City Council approved the $800,000 purchase of nearly 45 acres of land east of 36th Street.

Bellevue may need to walk away from a deal to purchase land for a new public works facility.

The city has until the end of the year to appraise the property and finalize the deal, but City Administrator Jim Ristow said if the city's disaster aid application to FEMA isn't approved soon the city may need to back out.

"If we can't get an answer from FEMA in early November, we're probably going to walk away from the deal," he said.

The City Council approved the $800,000 purchase Oct. 1 of almost 45 acres of land on the east side of 36th Street between Cornhusker Road and Nebraska Highway 370 that would house the new facility.

The project is expected to cost between $7 million and $10 million, Ristow said, and would allow the city to consolidate multiple offices, including the city's facility on Cedar Island Road.

A public works facility on Harlan Lewis Road was heavily damaged by flooding this spring and the city's insurance will not cover the city's buildings if it is rebuilt at that location, Ristow said.

Road improvements are included in the cost of the proposed public works facility, Ristow said.

If the city were to back out of the deal it would likely have to start the process all over, Ristow said, because it would need to renegotiate with property owners. The city narrowed down its options to three sites before choosing the 36th Street location, he said.

One of the other locations is in close proximity to the purchased land and the other farther south, but that one didn't make sense due to price, accessibility and room for consolidation of city offices, Ristow said.

The 36th Street site is in an area along the flight path of Offutt Air Force Base, known as the Air Installation Compatible Use Zone.

Businesses and cities work with Offutt to ensure developments don't hinder sight for pilots, and the location of the proposed public works facility would be difficult to approve for commercial developments like office buildings, Ristow said.

According to a 2015 Joint Land Use Study between Offutt, the Metropolitan Planning Agency and area municipalities, parcels in the immediate vicinity of the proposed public works facility are allowed to be between 200 and 350 feet in height.

According to a statement provided by 55th Wing Public Affairs, "it was determined by the 55th Civil Engineer Squadron that a proposed City of Bellevue public works facility may be located within the indicated area of the Air Installation Compatible Use Zone as long as there is no emission from the facility or structural design that could cause a hindrance of sight for pilots or encourage the congregation of birds."

The road improvements would fit into plans for a related roads project to develop another east-west corridor between Highway 370 and Cornhusker Road by connecting with Raynor Parkway with Gilmore Road and 15th Street, which would connect the Wolf Creek and Twin Creek shopping areas.

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