The owner of the Surfside Club is swimming upstream in his quest for city permission to build an RV park near his riverfront bar, restaurant and marina north of Omaha.
Michael Walker faces a strong current of opposition from neighbors, several of whom cite a May incident in which Walker fired a gun into the ground during an argument with an artist who was skipping rocks from Surfside property into the river. Walker was not arrested or charged.
The artist, LaMar Barber, testified Wednesday at the Omaha City Planning Board meeting. So did Merica Whitehall, the Fontenelle Forest executive director who also oversees the Neale Woods Nature Center near the Surfside Club. Several neighbors sent emails opposing the RV park proposal. They included Douglas County Board member Clare Duda, who farmsnearby.
Duda, who attended but did not speak at Wednesday’s meeting, said he is worried that campers will trespass on his farm, harass his goats and vandalize the property. Whitehall said she is worried about the RV park’s effect on the environmentally sensitive area, which has special zoning for environmental protection, and on the nature center. She said she’s worried about noise, litter and traffic.
Whitehall said the campground would be “a threat to people, plants and animals.”
And Omaha city planners, while not opposed to the concept of an RV park near the Surfside Club, say Walker has a lot of work to do before his request for a permit for an RV campground could be approved. That list includes bringing his current property up to code and into zoning compliance, addressing concerns about flood-plain impacts and putting together a plan to protect campers’ lives.
The Omaha Planning Board voted Wednesday to postpone a vote on Walker’s zoning and special use permit requests for the property at 14445 North River Drive.
Walker defended his actions in the May incident involving Barber. That said, he told the Planning Board that the incident shouldn’t be a factor in his permit and zoning applications. Walker said traffic wouldn’t be a problem, and that the topography will help him control noise like he said he currently does at the Surfside Club.
He said Neale Woods “enjoys their traffic coming, and they enjoy their customers coming to their facility. All we’re asking for is a chance to enjoy our customers coming to our facility.”
Walker said he has a very successful business at the Surfside Club, which he has owned since 2013, and a long real estate and business history. He said he will have “a lot more information” when he comes back to the Planning Board. He proposes to develop land south of the Surfside Club into a campground with RV parking, a swimming pool and a shower house. It initially would have gravel parking spaces for 54 campers, with a possible expansion for 54 more.
Several people sent emails opposing the plan.
Sign up for World-Herald news alerts
Be the first to know when news happens. Get the latest breaking headlines sent straight to your inbox.
A neighbor, transplant surgeon Dr. Byers Shaw Jr., said the campground would cause traffic congestion, noise and sewage problems, but “most egregious is the failure of the owners to recognize the high likelihood that the flooding we experienced this year … will get worse. Allowing anyone to build new living areas in the flood plain, and in a conservation overlay zone, no less, seems shortsighted at best, and potentially irresponsible.”
Another neighbor, Ryan Dennell, wrote that noise from “mediocre cover bands” at the Surfside Club “ruins the tranquility of living out in the country. … If an RV park is allowed to be installed, it will only further this problem.”
Barber, an artist-in-residence at Fontenelle Forest whose video of part of his May altercation with Walker went viral, gave the Planning Board his version of the incident. He said Walker fired a gun into the ground in front of him in an attempt to intimidate him.
“I’m bringing all that to your attention because this person is asking for further permission to have further influence on the great city of Omaha,” Barber said. “I just want to reveal the type of person that’s asking for permission to the Planning Board.”
Walker said he has been carrying a gun for 30 years, and that it was necessary to fire it in the May incident to defend his life.
“Never ever have I drawn my firearm, much less fired a round,” he said. “That situation I hope never happens again.”
Planning Board Chairman Greg Rosenbaum said the board wasn’t there to litigate the May incident, but to review Walker’s zoning and permit applications on their merits. The board’s vote was unanimous, and without discussion, to follow the Planning Department’s recommendation to postpone a decision because the applications were far from being ready.
1 of 121
Raindrops collected on the pedals of a rose as a steady, cool rain fell on flowers and grasses planted in the median near 133rd Street and Holling Drive in Omaha, Nebraska.
On the 75th anniversary of D-Day, Ed Morrissette a 95-year-old WWII veteran of Papillion, reminisced while toasting to his fallen comrades with a drink accompanied by John Adams, Tom Demro, Antonio Chickinelli and Jeff Hadden at Patriarch Distillers Inc. in La Vista, Nebraska, Thursday, June 6, 2019. Morrissette who was part of the second wave on D-Day at Omaha Beach drank a Canada Dry while the others had Soldier Valley Omaha Beach D-Day 75th anniversary bourbon whiskey.
United States' Annie Drews hit the ball past Brazil's blockers Amanda Francisco, left, and Ana Beatriz Correa, right, during a game in the FIVB Volleyball Nations League round-robin event at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Thursday, June 6, 2019.
United States' Jordyn Poulter (2) set the ball during a game against Brazil in the FIVB Volleyball Nations League round-robin event at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Thursday, June 6, 2019.
United States' Jordyn Poulter passed the ball during a game against Brazil in the FIVB Volleyball Nations League round-robin event at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Thursday, June 6, 2019.
Carolyn McNamara, left, of the Heritage Task Force, helped Carolyn Ducey, curator of collections with the International Quilt Museum, hang a quilt made by quilters from the First Unitarian Church of Omaha in 1898. The quilt was made by the Ladies of Unity Circle #1.
This was a quilt made by quilters from the First Unitarian Church of Omaha in 1898. The quilt was made by the Ladies of Unity Circle #1. The circle sold subscriptions quilt blocks to local businesses to be featured on the "commerce quilt."
Kathmandu Momo Station offers Nepalese themed momos and Burmese ramen, fish ramen pictured, at their brick and mortar location in the Blackstone neighborhood of Omaha, Nebraska.
Comedian Jim Gaffigan performed during the ArchOmaha Unite event in front of thousands of catholics at the CHI Health Center Omaha in Omaha, Nebraska, on Saturday, June 8, 2019.
Jeremy Caniglia of Omaha, held an umbrella to shield Josephine Lohmeier of Omaha, a woman he calls his great aunt from the sunshine while watching bocce ball competition during the 95th annual Santa Lucia Italian Festival at the Lewis and Clark Landing in Omaha, Nebraska, on Saturday, June 8, 2019.
From left to right, Chuck Vacanti, Larri and Joe Caniglia, Alyssa Turnquist, Jerry Caniglia and Mike Ferro chat while attending the 95th annual Santa Lucia Italian Festival at the Lewis and Clark Landing in Omaha, Nebraska, on Saturday, June 8, 2019.
Detroit Tigers' Blaine Hardy kissed his 6-month-old son Griffin prior to the Major League Baseball game against the Kansas City Royals at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska, on Thursday, June 13, 2019.
Major League Baseball debuted in Omaha on Thursday June 13th as the Royals faced the Tigers at TD Ameritrade Park.
Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera signed autographs for fans prior to a Major League Baseball game against the Kansas City Royals at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska, on Thursday, June 13, 2019.
All eight College World Series baseball teams, Texas Tech, Michigan, Arkansas, Florida State, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Auburn and Louisville joined the Kansas City Royals and the Detroit Tigers on the field for the National Anthem prior to the first ever Major League Baseball game at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska, on Thursday, June 13, 2019.
Kansas Cityâ€™s Nicky Lopez hit a second inning solo home run on front of Detroit catcher Grayson Greiner at TD Ameritrade Park on Thursday, June 13, 2019.
Detroitâ€™s Miguel Cabrera fouled a ball over his shoulder in the fourth inning at TD Ameritrade Park.
Pat McPherson of Omaha, who waited in line to get autographs from the Michigan baseball team, said he has been coming to the College World Series for about 20 years. He said the College World Series pins on his hat span a time of about 15 years.
Arkansas' Kevin Kopps warmsed up his arm during practice at TD Ameritrade Park for the College World Series.
Mississippi State's Cole Gordon wore his glove on his head during the College World Series practice day at TD Ameritrade Park.
Omaha Burke's Jaylon Roussell jogged the field people to participating in the Nebraska Cornhuskers Friday Night Lights event at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Lincoln Southeast's Xavier Trevino (61) and an athlete not listed on the roster (62) battled one another during a drill while participating in the Nebraska Cornhuskers Friday Night Lights event at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Nebraska Cornhuskers' head football coach Scott Frost addressed the prospects who participated in the Friday Night Lights event at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Michigan's Blake Nelson waited in the dugout for game 1 of the College World Series to start.
The National Anthem was played before Texas Tech faced Michigan during their College World Series game.
Florida State's J.C. Flowers lept to make a catch on a ball hit by Arkansas' Heston Kjerstad in the bottom of the second inning during game 2 of the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska.
Florida State's McGuire Weaver had a catch with right fielder in between innings during game 2 of the College World Series against Arkansas at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska.
Arkansas' Isaiah Campbell delivered a pitch to Florida State's Nander De Sedas during game 2 of the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska.
Auburn's Will Holland failed to tag out Mississippi State's Jordan Westburg who stole second base during game 4 of the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska.
Auburn's basketball coach Bruce Pearl, center, cheered with David Ayers, of Gadsden, Alabama during game 4 of the College World Series between Auburn and Mississippi State at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska.
Mississippi State's Marshall Gilbert, center, celebrated with teammates after his walk off hit in the bottom of the ninth against Auburn during game 4 of the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska. Mississippi State defeated Auburn 5-4.
Harrison Richmond of Arkansas caught a piece of popcorn in his mouth thrown by his father Jonathan Richmond before the Arkansas game against Texas Tech during the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park.
Texas Tech's Kurt Wilson fumbled a triple from Arkansas' Casey Martin during a game at the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park.
Arkansas catcher Casey Opitz tagged out Texas Techâ€™s Dylan Neuse after a dropped third strike during game five of the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park.
Casey Opitz reacted after Arkansas was eliminated from the College World Series in game 5 against Texas Tech at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska. Texas Tech eliminates Arkansas after an 5-4 win.
Arkansas' Trey Harris walked back to the locker room after Arkansas is eliminated by Texas Tech during game 5 of the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska.
Louisville's Adam Elliott warmed up before the start of game 7 of the College World Series.
Amy Koski, left, wiped the face of her son Brody while nephew Michael Davis and husband Matt Koski watched the field before game 7 of the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park.
Auburn's Rankin Woley slid into the fence while catching a foul ball for an out in the third inning.
Auburn's Will Holland reacted to being thrown out at home plate in the third inning in game 7 of the College World Series.
Kim Kline of Omaha watched game 7 of the College World Series though his plastic poncho as rain poured down. The game was stopped at the end of the fourth inning because of the weather.
Louisville right fielder Drew Campbell made a diving catch for the final out of the fourth inning of game 7 of the College World Series.
Louisville's Danny Oriente rubed the beard of Alex Binelas prior to resuming game 7 of the College World Series against Auburn at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska.
Edward Francis, 10, of Goldsboro, North Carolina celebrated after recovering a foul ball alongside his family during game 7 of the College World Series between Louisville and Auburn at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska.
Auburn's Matt Scheffler and Edouard Julien reacted to being eliminated by Louisville during game 7 of the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska.
Vanderbilt's Walker Grisanti and Kiambu Fentress played rock, paper, scissors in between innings during game 8 of the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska.
Florida State Head Coach Mike Martin tipped his hat and thanked the crowd after losing to Texas Tech during game nine of the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park. It was his final game.
Will Bolt, left, who is the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's new baseball coach, posed for pictures with Bill Moos, who is the athletic director of UNL, during a press conference.
Kent Bellows Mentoring Program students spray painted murals on the bottom of the large grain silos near S. 35th Street and Vinton Street in Omaha, Nebraska.
Kent Bellows Mentoring Program students, Gabrielle Washington, 17, alongside artist mentor Hugo Zamorano, and other students Abby Patterson, 17, and Mahala Bush posed for a portrait while spray painting murals on the bottom of the large grain silos near S. 35th Street and Vinton Street in Omaha, Nebraska.
Louisvilleâ€™s Nick Bennett wrote in the dirt on the mound before the game against Mississippi State during game ten of the College World Series.
The Louisville bench celebrated Jake Snider scoring the tying run on a hit by Danny Oriente as Mississippi State catcher Dustin Skelton canâ€™t handle the throw in the ninth inning during game ten of the College World Series.
Louisville's Jake Snider reacted to scoring run off of a hit from teammate Danny Oriente to tie up game 10 of the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park.
Louisvilleâ€™s Danny Oriente scored the winning off of a hit by Drew Campbell in the ninth inning against Mississippi State during game ten of the College World Series.
Louisville's Drew Campbell celebrated a walk-off win on his hit in the bottom of the 9th against Mississippi State during game ten of the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park.
Mississippi Stateâ€™s Jake Mangum reacted to losing to Louisville in a walk-off during game 10 of the College World Series.