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City gives initial nod to improvements necessary for hotel project


Last week the city council approved street improvement districts tied to a new hotel development north of Runza.

The requests for these improvements came from M.P. Patel of Krishna Management.

A redevelopment plan for this area was put in place five years ago, but Patel’s main business prospect chose a different location while the plan was being developed. Although East Old Post Road was reconstructed as part of this redevelopment, until now Patel was not ready to move forward with any new development of his own. Patel is now prepared to begin development on another project and has been working with Baker and Associates on the initial planning stages.

The improvements to street level would include another access point on Jennifer Lane between Sapp Brothers and Comfort Inn and an extension of Silverberg Drive.

Opening the access to Jennifer Lane will be a creative financing venture. This will be brought before the council if the new access point receives a go ahead from the state. If approved, this road will access onto 17J. Baker and Associates has been hired as special engineer for the project.

“These districts were included in the redevelopment plan when we approved it,” said city manager Gary Person. “But until he was comfortable in being able to continue going forward in the project, because it’s a tremendous investment on his part to get all this in place, he’s now to the point where he knows the clock is ticking on the redevelopment plan and he feels fairly secure in bringing another project to Sidney.”

Patel has had several meetings with Person and city staff to speak about the upcoming development. These road extensions will potentially open up development opportunities for other land owners in the area.

The city spoke with the district engineer about how to make the official request to open access to Jennifer Lane, since this portion of the project requires state approval. The Jennifer Lane portion might have to be put on hold until the city gets the go ahead from the department of roads, but Sidney is in the process of working on the official request for it at the moment, Person said.

Councilman Roger Gallaway wondered if there was any plan to make the opening to Jennifer Lane a truck route, directing larger vehicles around Old Post.

“I’m not sure that we want to specifically make that a route for trucks, but they’re obviously going to use it,” said public services director John Hehnke.

Approval may depend on theories about traffic congestion. The state wants to ensure it’s comfortable with re-routing of traffic this might cause, Person said.

Another point on the extension of Silverberg drive is that it would affect more property owners than just Patel, according to Person. After the original redevelopment plan five years ago, Wal-Mart signed with the city, agreeing to pay for its portion of Silverberg Drive. There is also a piece of property along the road that belongs to Wilkinson Development and Ehrlich Development.

“Right now, as Gary outlined, the plan is that Mr. Patel is in the process of looking to develop two of these lots into a hotel development, and that’s driving all this,” said Jack Baker of Baker and Associates.

The first step will be to start design of the water, sewer and streets and add access to utilities for the lots shortly after that, Baker said. His company has already started the surveying process on the site.

“Obviously we’re pretty late in the year to start construction yet this fall,” Baker said. “But everything can be ready to move into the spring with starting construction as soon as possible.”

The ordinances for Silverberg Drive and Jennifer Lane were made separately in case state approval holds up work on Jennifer Lane.

“That’s why we separated them out,” Person said. “Because we have the issue with the state and they’re really two distinct roads and they’re different districts. One may have an additional funding mechanism.”

This means that Silverberg wouldn’t be held up because of state issues on Jennifer Lane.

“The plans will significantly change if the access point is denied by the department of roads,” Hehnke said. “So that’s why we really didn’t want to tie the two projects in one.”

Councilman Mark Nienhueser asked how the city would proceed with Silverberg without knowing that Jennifer is approved.

“It’s either going to be a through street or it’ll end up being a street with a turn around on it, cul-de-sac,” Hehnke said.

Nienhueser wondered about timing for approval on Jennifer Lane.

“We can’t speak for the state, but we’re hoping by the time the plans and specs come forward through the council, that you authorize it to go out to bid that this is a process that has to precede that,” Person said.

The district engineer seemed in favor of the project, Baker said. It just needs to go before the state board.

If the state eventually denied access, the city would consider a redesign to the original plan.

Nienhueser theorized that the intersection at Old Post Road wouldn’t be able to handle extra traffic without the additional access at Jennifer Lane. Person responded that this problem should be another factor in persuading the state to approve the access.

“They have to have a project, they have to understand what’s gonna happen before they’ll consider it,” Person said.

The district engineer has always been in favor of opening this access point, Hehnke added.

“It just has to go through the formal channels in Lincoln,” Person said. “But they usually rely pretty heavily on the recommendation of the district engineer.”

Nienhueser wondered if the additional property owners had expressed opinions about the development. The city has a signed agreement with Wal-Mart, Person said but Wilkinson and Ehrlich both want to consider the cost before approving anything, he added.

“On a redevelopment project, they’re gonna get some benefit out of it too,” he said.

Nienhueser was reticent to approve anything without the go ahead from all the landowners affected. The district, however, can act with only 51 percent approval from affected landowners.

“You have to look at the benefit to the community and the funding mechanisms helping pay for some of it,” Person said. “Obviously it makes their properties more valuable as well.”

Baker confirmed that Patel and Wal-Mart own around 60-70 percent of the proposed extension of Silverberg Drive with the remaining 30 percent divided between the other owners. Patel owns 100 percent of the proposed area for Jennifer Lane.

The landowners are all notified of proposed improvements.

“Obviously we wanna do it the right way, we wanna notify the parties, but the reason for 51 percent control is you don’t wanna have a minority stake holder controlling future development of your community,” Person said.

Nienhueser wondered about storm water issues on this property.

“It was technically platted before the ordinance went into affect,” Person said. “But again, we wanna do the right thing.”

Storm water management has been incorporated into the street improvement district, Person said. The city does need Ehrlich’s cooperation for that. The company is planning for storm water improvements on both streets, Baker said. There will have to be some cooperation with Ehrlich if they wish to drain to the north so it can go on or across his property, Baker added.

“Is there a retention or detention facility somewhere on there?” Nienhueser asked.

There is not, Baker said. That’s something that will have to be discussed. Nienhueser wondered why it wasn’t required. The current storm water management requirements weren’t in place when this area was originally platted, Baker said.

“But one way or the other we’re gonna have to figure our a responsible way to discharge the storm water,” he added.

Nienhueser indicated that he would not vote for any project that didn’t include storm water management in the specifications.

“This storm water off of these roads and off of these lots has to be retained, detained and dealt with,” Nienhueser said.

Baker and Associates hasn’t begun the design process at this point, but it plans to coordinate with surrounding property owners to take care of the storm water issue, even though it’s not required by the city.

“It’d be irresponsible of us and of this development to just kick it on down the property and cause further damage,” Baker said.

These plans would come back in front of the council before approval, Hehnke said.

The council approved street improvement districts for both Silverberg Drive and Jennifer Lane as well as extensions of the sewer and water districts in the same area. Baker and Associates were approved as special engineers on all aforementioned districts.


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