Urban Affairs

Population thresholds, verification procedures proposed

The Urban Affairs Committee heard two bills Jan. 17 that would clarify how population thresholds for certain cities and counties are met and verified in state law.

Sen. Sue Crawford said LB74 would clarify state law regarding population thresholds.
Sen. Sue Crawford said LB74 would clarify state law regarding population thresholds.

Lincoln Sen. Matt Hansen introduced LB113, which he said arose from an interim study to clarify how population thresholds are measured and verified in Nebraska. He said that while the state has clear threshold numbers for the five classifications of municipalities, clarification is needed to determine when those thresholds are met.

“[The interim study] pointed out several issues that needed to be updated,” Hansen said. “Since the interim hearing, we’ve been working to find the best way to update the statutes in a clear and concise way.”

Under the bill, all municipalities would notify the Nebraska secretary of state when a population threshold is crossed. Currently, some classifications of municipalities are required to provide notification to the governor.

The bill also would specify that population would be determined by the most recent federal decennial census or certified U.S. Census Bureau count.

Hansen said he is working on a possible amendment that would allow municipalities also to use the American Community Survey to verify population numbers.

David Cary, planning director of the Lincoln/Lancaster Planning Department, testified in support of LB113, saying Lincoln is nearing the 300,000 population threshold to move from a primary class to a metropolitan class city under state law. However, the threshold likely will be met between mid-2020 and late 2021, he said, meaning that the city would have to wait until the 2030 census to certify the status change under current law.

Providing for use of the annually conducted American Community Survey would enable the city to apply for reclassification before confirmation by a new census, he said.

“If the city was not allowed to formally move into the metropolitan class of city until after the 2030 decennial census, Lincoln and the state of Nebraska would have lost nearly a full decade of the potential benefits that a metropolitan class designation offers its citizens,” Cary said.

Also introduced was LB74, sponsored by Bellevue Sen. Sue Crawford. She said laws passed several years ago created different annexation and development review procedures for municipalities of different sizes located within a county with a population between 100,000 and 200,000.

“LB74 would align the county population threshold for annexation, review of proposed subdivision plats and the approval of planned unit developments at a range between 100,000 and 250,000,” she said.

Currently, Sarpy County is the only Nebraska county that falls within the population range covered by the bill.

Crawford said the bill also would clarify that the population thresholds would be determined by the most recent federal decennial census or the most recent revised certified count by the U.S. Bureau of the Census.

Joe Kohout, representing the United Cities of Sarpy County, testified in support of the bill. He said that La Vista, Papillion, Springfield and Gretna are in favor of the clarifications.

No opposition testimony was given on either bill and the committee took no immediate action on them.

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