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Despite organized opposition by the Rose Garden Estates Homeowners Association, the Omaha City Council approved rezoning ordinances for an apartment complex near 168th and Shirley Streets. 

McNeil & Company Builders plan to build 194 market-rate units on what is currently green space about a mile north of Zorinsky Lake. The City Council voted 5-1 to rezone the property from single-family residential districts to low and medium density multi-family districts. Councilmember Juanita Johnson was the lone vote against the proposal. 

Despite not owning the property, neighbors like Carol Goldie have maintained the green space. Goldie said her and her husband have moved and planted trees so neighbors can enjoy the natural area.

“We have invested a lot of time, energy and money to maintain and improve this parcel of land,” Goldie said. “And we believe it belongs to us.”

Other residents expressed concerns about increased density. Attorney Michael Matukewicz, representing the home owners association, said the development would exacerbate traffic congestion in the neighborhood. He said that although it meets the objective requirements of the city’s master plan, the project does not satisfy the plan’s subjective considerations. 

“What we should be looking at… is this the best use of this property?” Matukewicz said. “Does it provide the best quality of life for our neighbors?”

Matukewicz pointed to the master plan’s future land use map, which designated the area as low density residential. Larry Jobeun, representing the developers, said the master plan calls for more housing units for property adjacent to a mixed-use center, like the one at 168th Street and West Center Road.

Jobeun said the development is not high density under Omaha’s standards. He added that multi-family projects don’t generate as much traffic as opponents believe.

“Everything about this particular project is compliant with our master plan and our code,” Jobeun said.

Councilmember Don Rowe said Omaha needs to increase density in suburban areas in order to keep growing. 

“We’re at a point in Omaha where density’s going to continue to be an issue,” Rowe said.

The City Council also approved a special use permit for Nebraska Neurobehavioral Services to operate a group home for at-risk youth at 3013 and 3015 North 95th Street. The property is currently being used as a group home for adults with substance abuse, which has caused issues for neighbors.

Opponent Michael Bryan said a recent neighborhood meeting with the home’s new operators helped address some of the neighbor’s questions and concerns. He said he’d still prefer the property to become family housing, but he recognized the need for the group home.

Thanks to an amendment introduced by Council President Pete Festersen, the permit will be issued to Nebraska Neurobehavioral Services—led by therapist Justice Braimah—rather than to the property, so that any new owners would need to apply for a new permit.

“That offers us a little bit of protection,” Bryan said. “[Braimah] seems to really care about what the neighborhood’s gonna do.”

Braimah said he has nothing to do with the operation of the current home. He said services are limited for youth in Omaha, and he hopes this home will keep Nebraska youth from being relocated out of state for behavioral services.

“Outside of Boys Town, Omaha Home for Boys, or the new facility that’s just been built, options are limited,” Braimah said during the Nov. 1 public hearing.


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