Image courtesy of JEO Consulting

The Gretna City Council approved a study that deemed a Highway 6 corridor as blighted/substandard at its Sept. 17 meeting.

The recently completed study focused primarily on an area that included Cort Plaza and an open field nearby, examining conditions of the property and its structures to determine whether it qualified as blighted or substandard. This qualification would determine its eligibility for tax increment financing which would help a potential developer overcome these conditions.

The study area, a commercial corridor located along Highway 6, was selected for a number of reasons: its presence of blighted and substandard characteristics; its potential for private development and redevelopment activities; the need for improvements in infrastructure; the economical and functional obsolescence of certain uses within the area; and the need for public intervention to stimulate redevelopment.

Street conditions and the limited connectivity in the area contribute to blighted conditions. Faulty lot layout in relation to size and shape also contributed.

Other contributing factors include areas of washouts and erosion, vegetation overgrowth and lack of sidewalks.

Many residents living in or near the study area attended the Sept. 17 public hearing to speak in opposition of the study and what it might mean for future development.

Though one of the issues cited in the blight study was the lack of connectivity between streets and the absence of sidewalks, some neighbors were unsettled by the thought of opening extra access to the highway.

“We like where we live,” said Angie Taylor, who spoke at both the Planning Commission’s and City Council’s public hearings. “We don’t want the traffic cutting through our neighborhood.”

Taylor pointed out that many neighborhood students walk to Gretna Elementary School each day and the dangers that increased traffic might pose for them.

“There’s interest in developing that area,” City Administrator Jeff Kooistra said.

As for what that development might be, the city has not been presented any plans and does not have a timeline on when those might be revealed.

Kooistra said it was good to hear from residents of the neighborhood and Cort Plaza business owners, as it offers city officials and council members an idea of what would be an acceptable future use of the area.

“If they’re going to ask for TIF funding, it needs to be done right,” he said.

The blight study does not approve any future development. Redevelopment plans and platting for those projects would have to come before the Planning Commission and City Council before moving forward.

“I’m hoping it will be a positive thing, whatever comes out of it,” Kooistra said.

Also at its Sept. 17, the council:

• Set the property tax request for fiscal year 2019–20.

• Approved second reading of Ordinance 2051, amending the master fee schedule.

• Denied a speed limit change to 25 mile per hour on South 204th Street.

• Approved and adopted Resolution 9-19 (4), approving stop signs at the intersection of 204th and Angus streets.

• Approved a pay request of $15,693.02 to NL&L Construction Inc. for 2019 street improvement projects.

• Approved the mayor’s appointment of Meeko Spainhower to the Gretna Planning Commission.

• Approved a final pay request of $251,720.32 to Prairie Construction Co. for the Public Works building project.

The council then entered executive session to discuss litigation and contract negotiations.

The next regular council meeting will be Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Gretna City Hall, 204 N. McKenna Ave. The council meets the first and third Tuesday of each month. For agendas and past meeting minutes, visit gretnane.org.

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