Community aesthetics, safety and prosperity were areas of emphasis as the Nebraska City City Council began the process of updating its zoning regulations,  considerations being made  based on the city’s comprehensive development plan.
Marty Stovall, Construction and Facilities Manager for Nebraska City, said the city completed its comprehensive development plan two years ago and noted that the establishment of a city planning commission and such a development plan are prerequisites for dealing with zoning issues.
It had been 15 years since the city had updated its zoning and the goal of this effort was alignment and update.
“We want to make sure our zoning is in line with the new direction that our council has set with the comprehensive plan,” said City Administrator Grayson Path.
Looking at some of the areas of the zoning that saw significant change, Stovall cited language meant to direct and regulate the placement of hardware associated with delivering data streams for cellular devices.
Fifteen years ago, the market for cell phones wasn’t  as data driven. With customers demanding more data, the need for hardware has gone up.
The new zoning regulations dictate that such hardware be installed in such a way that doesn’t detract from  the beauty of the city.
A new zoning consideration specific to this cycle was the establishment of wellhead protection. The zoning of land near the city’s drinking water wells north of the Riverview Marina restricts land use to protect the water quality. A feedlot for instance or a transfer station, would never be allowed in that area with this new zoning.
“There are a lot of things you can’t do in that zone now and that is to protect our drinking water,” Stovall said.
Another area of zoning emphasis is being considered to protect the city’s business corridor  including the beltway.
The regulations direct new businesses to think of  aesthetics by facing the best side of the business forward and by directing the inclusion of landscaping and well lit parking areas.
In the residential areas, the zoning dealt with set backs, or the space that is thought to be ideal to allow from the street to the actual structure.
The common set back is 20 feet from the sidewalk to the house, including overhangs.
Path said many people think that the measurement begins at the curb, but its actually closer to the sidewalk area, making a set back 40 feet from the curb in some instances.
Zoning changes for set backs at this time are to make them more consistent with currently existing structures, a good deal of which feature set backs less than 20 feet.
In generally speaking, zoning deals with dividing the town into areas meant for residential, commercial and industrial.
The mix of different zones can cause problems.
At one time in the city’s history, neighborhood stores were commonplace.
Changes in the way businesses operate make it less than ideal for businesses to operate in a residential zone these days.
Path noted that grocery stores are now served by 18-wheel trucks instead of smaller box trucks.
The idea of having an 18-wheel truck in a residential area carrying stock for a grocery store is less than ideal.
And it could create safety issues.
Sometimes values and safety are a dual consideration.
That’s why the council is considering zoning changes related to adult businesses.
While no such business has been suggested, Path said it’s important for the city to consider its stance on such establishments, to create a legal opportunity for said businesses to exist and to provide for regulations that are in line with community values.
The regulations would allow for adult businesses only in the industrial area and only under very strict regulations.
In dealing with the adult business question, Path said the city is not trying to create an opportunity or recruit for a business.
“We are not trying to advertise or bring it here,” said Path. “We are trying to be ready in case it does come. The time to be ready for that is not after they have come and knocked on your door.”
Residents who have questions about any of the zoning should consider looking up the zoning information on the city’s website at nebraskacityne.gov or visiting City Hall to talk with Path or Stovall about zoning to gain a better understanding.
Path said zoning effects what people can do on their lots in the city and that folks with questions about that are welcomed to come and talk to him.
Addressing concerns now as the city works toward finalizing zoning is ideal.
After the zoning is finalized, citizens can still voice concerns and, if they have a conflict with the zoning regulations, have their case heard with the possibility of an amendment being made to solve a problem.