For more on the 2015-2025 Comprehensive Plan & Housing Study, contact Greg Ptacek at 402-887-4447 or visit www.Neligh.org.
A major tool for the future of Neligh was on display last night as the city’s comprehensive plan for 2015-2025 was introduced.
Although currently in draft form, the planning commission and city council will hold hearings in December on the plan with approval expected before the first of the year. It’s Neligh’s first comprehensive plan since 1977.
“The comprehensive plan is a very important document and will open the door to several grant avenues and also provides a vision for the next 10 years for our community. It’s a great tool to show to potential new businesses looking at coming to Neligh,” said Greg Ptacek, Neligh Economic Development Director.
The draft is available for viewing at Neligh.org and at the Economic/Chamber Office.
Miller and Associates community planners Brenda Jensen and Eric Hellriegel facilitated the final of four hall meetings Monday. They said the plan gives the City of Neligh the tools to help make decisions on everything from housing and zoning to possible annexation and business retention.
“This is a snapshot in time and is public participation driven,” Hellriegel said. “Land could be sold tomorrow that changes everything, so this isn’t a guaranteed document for the city. It’s not set in stone, but it is a guide and plan for the City of Neligh for the next 10 years.”
At one of the town hall meetings, participants helped create an annexation plan to identify what areas were most attractive to bring land into the city in the future. The planners repeated that the annexation map was only a possibility and nothing definite for the City of Neligh.
The map showed adding about 300 acres of light industry to the east edge of Neligh, as well as a significant amount of residential development to the north and east sides of town and commercial to the west edge.
Jensen said there’s a misconception that annexing areas into a community means that the city must extend city services. She said the state statue reads that a plan to serve the area with power and public utilities must exist, but the plan does not have to have a specific timeline because some areas are simply not feasible to have water or sewer.
The housing study showed 70 percent of Neligh’s housing is owned and 30 percent is rented, which Jensen said is normal for Nebraska communities. The study looked at losing .31 percent of Neligh's population annually as well as gaining .50 percent. Jensen said due to the number of dilapidated homes (36) in Neligh, the city will need 36 new homes in the next 10 years even if population declines. If population increases, Neligh would need 127 new homes.
“The plan recommends cleaning up the dilapidated units and working toward building the 36 that are needed,” Jensen said. “If an increase is shown for two consecutive years, encourage builders to increase five units rather than two that year. Your needs will change, so you’ll need to look at your population and be realistic. Start by focusing on the 36 units in the next 10 years.”
As expected, economic development was key to the plan. Participants said they look for job creation and business retention from the city’s economic development. Jensen said a vital component is opening the lines of communication regularly and talking to major employers about what the city can do to help with employees.
Marketing and economic development go hand in hand, Jensen said, and Neligh has a strong online and social media presence and is “doing it right” with the #ThisisMYneligh video campaign, new City of Neligh logo and branding slogan of “Not Too Small To Have It All."
“When I see any part of that logo, I think of Neligh. That's what marketing should do. Plus, you have to have accurate information at your fingertips. If it’s not up-to-date, you're hurting yourself and the market within Neligh,” she said. “Neligh has a lot going for it, so focus on the good things. It’s human nature to focus on the bad, but Neligh is a really nice community to live in. That's what you're marketing."
Whether it’s business retention or housing, the planning team said the public is equally important as the City of Neligh, which was a focus through public participation at town hall meetings. Jensen said what is viewed as the needs of the community had to come from its residents. How the community moves forward will also come from the people of Neligh as much as the City of Neligh.
“The city can’t be responsible for everything. It takes private citizens, investors and volunteers,” Jensen said. “It will take the entire community to act in support for the future betterment of the city.”