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Master plan for east Sidney development unveiled

First phase to include medical center, school and up to 200 homes

 

The grand vision for Sidney involves curving streets and wide walkways framing new housing developments to allieviate the city's chronic shortage.

Last night, a special meeting of Sidney's planning commission and city council convened to view the initial plans for east Sidney. As outlined, the grassland east of Ft. Sidney Rd. will feature a large housing tract and a new location for Sidney Regional Medical Center, as well as the consolidated K-4 elementary school, if approved.

Much of the land belongs to Cabela's, purchased for the purpose of development.

"We know Cabela's is committed to staying in Sidney, we hear it over and over from the CEO on down," said Dennis Armstrong, architect for Cabela's. "Cabela's is here, we're here to stay and we wish to grow in Sidney."

The scheme presented last night was what Armstrong called the overall grand vision, but the entire plan will be phased in over time. Market absorption will decide how fast the development grows. The first portion of the construction will include space for around 200 homes.

"Our hope with our project is that we can get infrastructure in play, homebuilders selected and be in a position to have homes ready to come out of the ground next year," Armstrong said.

Last night's presentation included just the initial plans. These will ultimately have to be discussed and approved.

"What we'll be talking about tonight is a plan that hopefully members here on the planning commission and city council agree with us," Armstrong explained.

This concept follows the vision of the city's 2012 comprehensive plan, Armstrong added. One of the major concerns for the city in this plan was the housing shortage.

"It makes sense," Armstrong said. "It's a good plan for us to carry forward."

This area will feature housing for people of various income levels, Armstrong said.

"Also, what's important, this development contains within it as a division, new parks," Armstrong pointed out. "And these parks are an important and integral part of the development. They are the things that we hope tie these communities together."

One of Cabela's goals was to make sure the area has some character.

Rick Harrison, a land planner with Site Design Studio out of Minneapolis presented the plans to the city council, planning commission and members of the community in attendance of last night's special meeting.

His company has worked with more than 300 land developers in 46 states and 18 countries, Harrison said.

The goals of this development will be sustainable growth, lower construction costs and giving those who live in the development a better sense of self worth. Planners working on the development hope to ensure that residents feel good about the homes they're going home to, Harrison added.

Sub: Take a walk

In this pedestrian oriented community, walking paths were designed before streets.

"One advantage of this is that it connects directly with our other walkways and parks systems," said Sidney Mayor Wendall Gaston.

They want to make it feel like a big trail system, Armstrong said.

The walkways will be wider than the standard four feet, which Harrison said are not wide enough for a couple to walk comfortably side by side. They're proposing walks that are six feet wide.

"Wide walks can be used for emergency vehicles," Harrison said. "So they can be dual purpose, so police if they have to get across the way, they can use the walk."

One of the main trails will lead from the hospital to the park, because the hospital will be a main focus in the development. The development will also work on vehicular flow which is a huge marketing advantage, Harrison said.

"If you look at our design, there's curved streets everywhere," Harrison said.

Curved streets help to avoid intersections which can be dangerous and slow down drivers, he added. Meandering stretches have long been used by suburban developers to lend a sense of country to a housing community.

Each part of the development will have a street which defines that portion of the neighborhood, but will also have reduced street length, which means less pavement for the city to maintain, Harrison added.

"Most people will get home with one turn or less," Harrison said.

This land planning firm strives to use space in an optimum way, instead of squeezing as many houses into an area as possible. He assured the audience that no two neighborhoods would be alike and that the homes would not be parallel so no one would be looking out a window at their neighbor.

Harrison stressed the importance of having as many homes as possible connected to the park and the value of a good view for everyone.

The first phase of the development to be built is not in the flood plain, but grading and reworking will have to be performed in the area around Lodgepole creek. A portion of the development will still be in the flood plain, and that means no structures can be built in this area. Current plans call for a park to be built in the floodplain.

Sub: Rainy days

Storm water management was also an issue, but those working on the project now have a clear idea of how to handle this, and are sure that they can comply with the city's storm water plans. Their current intention is to slow down the water letting it soak back into the soil, which will also be beneficial to the water table.

"Historically, heavy rains happen north of town," said chairperson of the planning commission Jerry Spiker.

This causes the Lodgepole Creek to overflow downstream, Spiker added.

Engineers will have to worry about the water before it overwhelms the creek near the development, Armstrong said.

Armstrong told the crowd that traffic patterns are still being set and that connecting the development to Old Post Road will create a grid.

Spiker expressed concerns he said were shared by many Sidney residents, that the K-4 school would be on the opposite side of town from the rest of the schools.

"In your presentation you talked about reducing time and gas and travel," Spiker said. "Why not look at the school where the brand new high school is?"

It's inconvenient for parent who'll have kids at the elementary and the high school, he added. This will cause some parents quite a bit of back and forth driving.

Sidney city manager Gary Person explained that Sidney schools looked at various locations before deciding on the one in the east Sidney development. Space considerations were made as well.

"They did study a lot of different central locations," Person explained.

There wasn't enough space near the other schools and the east part of town offered much more room.

Armstrong said that having a center of the universe in this development is critical and in this development it will be a combination the school and the SRMC.

City council member Joe Arterburn wondered what sorts of structures could be placed in the park.

"What would be allowed in the floodplain?" Arterburn asked.

Playing fields could be a possibility, but flooding might cause difficulty with them, Armstrong responded.

"We'd like it to have as much active space as we can make it," he said.

If more thought was put into placement of structures, there will be more options, Armstrong added.

"If we're careful where we place some of those, their chances of being involved in a flood would be less than if you just take them right down and put them near the creek," Armstrong said.

The floodplain could cause difficulty, he admitted.

"What we need to do next, is now start working with staff, with the home building groups that are looking at developing in this area, and coming up with our game plan which takes us through the next steps we have to get through," Armstrong said.

Those working on the project know what a huge change this development will be to the composition of important elements in the city of Sidney.

"What we're doing over time will drastically affect everything on this side of town," Armstrong said.

 

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