Rural property owners come out against current Lincoln annexation proposal

Rural property owners come out against Lincoln annexation proposal
Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 8:41 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Lincoln’s expansion continues and shows no signs of slowing down, and there are many who are excited about it.

However, not everyone is happy about the timing of future annexations, including residents who live on acreages still a part of Lancaster County, but surrounded on three side by the City of Lincoln. That’s lead to increased concerns about what the future would hold for property owners in the county-controlled area in southeast Lincoln between 70 and 84th Streets, from Pine Lake to Yankee Hill Roads.

The proposed annexation area that Lincoln officials want to add to the city.
The proposed annexation area that Lincoln officials want to add to the city.(City of Lincoln)

That prompted a meeting last night at Southeast Volunteer Fire & Rescue’s south station, near Eiger Drive and Nebraska Parkway. Dozens of county residents, both from the proposed annexation area and other areas which the volunteer department covers, attended the meeting. There to meet their concerns with a very open mind was Lincoln City Councilwoman Sandra Washington, the lone representative from the city as a whole.

The meeting was partially organized by Southeast’s Assistant Chief Jeremy Quist, who is one of the residents who would be impacted by the annexation. One of the issues residents are faced with is how their way of life is going to change if the annexation were to move forward.

“Living here on an acreage, we have livestock and we enjoy our semi-rural type of life, and we have a lot of concerns involved with that,” Quist told 10/11 NOW. “There’s a lot of things that we do on a large partial ground that’s four or five acres; the city wants us to act like we’re a quarter-of-an-acre lot.”

At the base of all of it is concerns about taxes, water service, and fire protection. Many residents spoke to Washington about what they’ll face if services are changed over into city hands, including those who live in areas that aren’t on the city’s agenda yet when it comes to annexation. Those areas, primarily, are along the 56th Street corridor between Yankee Hill and Saltillo Road.

When it comes to water service, things get complicated.

“We have to ask to bring that service in, but it’s going to cost each homeowner between $40,000 and $60,000 dollars to hook up to city water and sewer,” Quist said. Currently, water wells are what supply acreage owners with everything they need when it comes to water.

Another factor in all of this is Southeast Fire’s serious claim to the issue. An annexation of the proposed area would take away almost half of their tax dollars that help keep the volunteer fire department funded and well organized. Quist says that if the annexation were to move forward, nearly half the department’s revenue would be lost. Additionally, fire protection service for those living on both sides of the 56th Street corridor would be severely impacted, due in large part to the fact that Southeast would likely have to close the south station if annexation were to occur.

(Ryan Swanigan (KOLN))

“We’re trying to get these problems addressed and resolved with hopefully some compromise before we’re annexed,” Quist said. “What we’re proposing as a neighborhood is that the city wait to annex everything on the south side of town, down to the new beltway, at one time.”

Quist says that would allow for Lincoln to be better prepared to acquire the land and be in a better position to manage it altogether. Currently, as it stands right now, Lincoln Fire & Rescue is not adequately prepared to fight fires on acreages the size of the ones in Southeast’s jurisdiction. Council member Washington says that conversations have already been occurring about LFR acquiring the necessary apparatus to fight those fires, adding that the funding is available, but the time frame would be anywhere between 16 months to two years before it would arrive.

“We understand completely that the city of Lincoln is growing, and that’s great,” Quist said. “We would just like some compromise and to realize that an acreage is not the same as a brand new subdivision of quarter-of-an-acre lots.”

Ultimately, Washington was busy throughout the meeting, answering the concerns of property owners and constantly writing down what people were bringing up to her. All of this is ahead of a public hearing at Monday’s city council meeting, where many of the residents who attended Thursday night’s meeting are expected to testify before the council on the proposed annexation. Washington told residents that there are some options when it comes to addressing the annexation, one of which would be delaying the proposal altogether. Both Washington and Councilman Richard Meginnis have been actively listening to the concerns from property owners. Both of them will be part of Monday’s council meeting, which will be key for the future of the possible annexation of the area.