Session Review: Urban Affairs

Building codes and the powers of municipalities, sanitary and improvement districts (SIDs) and homeowners associations (HOAs) were among the urban issues taken up by senators.

Currently, Nebraska uses the 2009 editions of the International Building Codes. LB540, introduced by Bellevue Sen. Sue Crawford, adopts the 2012 revisions to the following codes:
• International Building Code, which covers all new construction except one- and two-family dwellings;
• International Residential Code, which covers new construction of one- and two-family dwellings; and
• International Existing Building Code, which covers repair, alteration, addition and change of occupancy for existing buildings.

The bill did not adopt a section of the 2012 International Residential Code that requires new one- and two-family dwellings and townhouses to include a fire sprinkler system. Under the bill, the state building code continues to exclude the residential fire sprinkler mandate but political subdivisions retain the ability to opt in.

The bill passed on a 46-0 vote.

Cities and towns in Nebraska have the express authority to borrow funds directly from financial institutions to purchase property or construct improvements under a bill passed by lawmakers.

LB152, introduced by the Urban Affairs Committee, allows municipalities to borrow directly from state- or federally-chartered banks, savings banks, building and loan associations and savings and loan associations.

The bill authorizes direct borrowing by resolution as well as ordinance and municipalities may use direct borrowing to purchase real or personal property, construct improvements or refinance existing indebtedness at a lower rate.

The ability of municipalities to borrow directly from financial institutions is limited to cases in which financing the purchase of property, construction of improvements or refinancing of existing indebtedness through traditional bond financing would be impractical, could not be completed within the time restraints facing the municipality or would generate taxpayer savings.

The bill also includes public notice requirements for direct borrowing from a financial institution and caps the total amount of indebtedness from direct borrowing to 10 percent of the municipal budget for a city or 20 percent of the municipal budget for a village.

LB152 passed 46-0.

Lawmakers also passed a bill that expands the authority of SIDs.

When a property developer buys land for a housing development, an SID is created to install streets, sewers and power and buy land for public parks. The SID is vested with taxing authority to finance these services.

LB324, introduced by Omaha Sen. John McCollister, authorizes SIDs to contract for solid waste collection services. Any solid waste collection contract entered into by an SID will be cancelled upon the district’s annexation by a city or village.

The bill includes provisions of two other bills.

Originally introduced by Norfolk Sen. Jim Scheer, provisions of LB197 provide limited additional powers to an SID when it is too close to a municipality to incorporate, yet too far away from a municipality to be annexed.

These powers must be approved by both the city council or village board within whose zoning jurisdiction the SID is located and the county board in which a majority of the SID is located, and are available only to SIDs located in a county with a population less than 100,000.

Provisions of LB420, originally introduced by Crawford, require a person purchasing a home located in an SID to acknowledge in writing their understanding that the property is located within an SID.

The bill passed on a 44-3 vote.

Lawmakers gave final approval to a bill that provides a mechanism for a dissolved HOA to achieve reinstatement.

LB304, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Matt Hansen, adopts the Municipal Custodianship for Dissolved Homeowners Associations Act. The bill allows a municipality to be appointed custodian over a dissolved HOA.

The bill establishes a $100 fee for an HOA seeking reinstatement after being dissolved for more than five years and applies only to HOAs located within the city limits of a municipality.

The bill passed 45-0.

A bill intended to provide state-level tax increment financing (TIF) oversight remains in committee. LB596, sponsored by Hyannis Sen. Al Davis, would create the Tax-Increment Financing Division of the Auditor of Public Accounts.

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