City council chambers NDN

A proposal that has undergone debate and changes for more than a year received final approval from the Norfolk City Council on Monday night.

The new ordinance significantly expands the boundaries of the North Fork of the Elkhorn River overlay district, which is a special zoning designation that sets mainly aesthetic guidelines for new commercial development near the river.

Mayor Josh Moenning has said previously that the overlay district is meant to manage growth and make the area better for residents and businesses in the area.

“At its essence, (it) gets to preserving what is already in place and helping guide and manage new growth and development along that corridor,” Moenning said at a council meeting in April.

The zone now starts at Benjamin Avenue and Riverside Boulevard and heads south along the banks of the river down to just north of Chestnut Street and Omaha Avenue. The district already existed in an area of several blocks around Norfolk Avenue and First Street.

The process for expanding the district began last year with several public town halls and eventually a formal proposal went before the Norfolk Planning Commission in August. The commissioners ultimately approved the plan in November.

But the city council was divided on the issue, and it ultimately came to a head in December.

After a vote on the expansion failed to pass, it was revealed after the fact that Moenning, who is normally not allowed to vote at council meetings, should have been allowed to vote but was not given the chance to do so.

The failed vote was subsequently rescinded and the debate over the expansion began again.

Ultimately, the issue was tabled until April and a compromise was reached. In it, the proposed expansion was scaled back, especially on the northern side, and some additional rules were added to exempt residential property from the district’s guidelines.

The ordinance was passed on final reading Monday night. Because of council rules, no discussion was allowed to take place before the vote. It passed by a 5-1 vote, with Fred Wiebelhaus opposing.

The council also passed another ordinance that added more members to the district’s review board and set residency requirements for board members. That ordinance passed unanimously.

Also attending Monday’s city council meeting were several members of the Norfolk Airport Authority, who spoke about the state of the Norfolk Regional Airport.

Bill Jepsen and Dan Geary said the long winter impacted the amount of traffic this year, and fuel sales were down as a result.

But they said that the airport remains a strong regional hub, especially for shipping, with over 10,000 flights coming in and out over the past year, and another strong summer is anticipated.

An economic impact study of airports across the state of Nebraska is also taking place, and the initial findings are expected in the fall. The airport authority board will then take action based on the results at that time.

Other business Monday night included a bid for a project at the water pollution control plant, a change to a contract for a water main project and a zoning change for a new bank building for Elkhorn Valley Bank.

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