Session Review: Urban Affairs

Utility district elections, redevelopment, zoning ordinances and city financing were among the urban affairs issues taken up by lawmakers this session.

Senators passed a bill that authorizes district elections for the metropolitan utilities district (MUD) board of directors.

LB1014, introduced by Omaha Sen. John Murante, authorizes the MUD board of directors to divide the district’s territory into seven election subdivisions.

The board has until Feb. 1, 2016, to establish districts composed of substantially equal population and compact and contiguous territory and will assign each member a numbered subdivision for the remainder of their current term of office.

Assignments will be made so as to stagger elections to the new districts until 2023. The board must redistrict following each federal decennial census.

The bill passed on a 47-0 vote.

Also approved this session, on a 43-0 vote, was a measure that revises guidelines for the accounting of certain blighted properties.

LB1012, introduced by Ogallala Sen. Ken Schilz, permits cities to exempt redevelopment projects using formerly used defense sites when determining the amount of blighted land in their municipalities.

Lawmakers updated requirements for how municipalities provide notice to neighborhood associations of zoning and redevelopment plan changes.

Currently, municipalities are required to provide notice by certified mail. Under LB679, introduced by Omaha Sen. Heath Mello, a neighborhood association electing to receive notices may request a preferred method of notice, including email, regular, certified or registered mail.

The bill passed on a 47-0 vote.

A measure intended to facilitate the use of tax increment financing (TIF) in Nebraska cities and villages remained on select file.

LR29CA, introduced by York Sen. Greg Adams, would have placed a proposed constitutional amendment on the November 2014 general election ballot. If approved by voters, the amendment would have changed how cities and villages are able to use TIF to rehabilitate substandard properties.

Two bills advanced from committee but were not scheduled for debate.

LB791, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Amanda McGill would have authorized cities of the first and second class and villages to borrow money from financial institutions to purchase property.
LB801, introduced by the committee, would have established a procedure for a property owner or occupant to appeal a nuisance citation in a first- or second-class city or village.

Finally, LB968, introduced by Norfolk Sen. Jim Scheer, would have provided additional powers for certain sanitary and improvement districts in Nebraska. The bill did not advance from committee.

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