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Housing needs, possible annexation plans and population were all discussed at Neligh’s latest town hall meeting.
Miller and Associates community planners Brenda Jensen and Eric Hellriegel facilitated the second town hall meeting as the City of Neligh continues gathering information to form a comprehensive plan that will take the community into 2025.
About 25 people attended the meeting at the Neligh Senior Center, where housing, population and school enrollment data was shared before annexation plans were discussed.
After much time was spent looking at data, community members studied maps of Neligh and put together possible annexation plans based upon how to meet housing needs and possible industrial expansion. The two groups also considered elevation, water pressure and sewage and electric needs. Jensen and Hellriegel told the groups to make possible annexation plans to be considered, and that no annexation ideas presented would be considered concrete recommendations.
Among the data that was shared at the meeting showed that the population of Neligh has only dropped 51 people since 1930. The community has seen the population both increase and decrease in those 80 years, though, including the peak population of 1,893 in 1980.
In comparing Neligh to other similar-sized communities, Neligh has seen a 3.1 percent population decrease between 2000-2010. Albion has decreased by 8.2 percent, Plainview by 7.9 percent and O'Neill by .8 percent. Atkinson has increased by .1 percent.
In looking at housing, that population spike was also one of the most progressive times for new home construction. Using data from the American Community Survey, which Jensen said has a varied error of margin that will be trimmed after more data is collected, 151 homes were built in the 1970s.
Several community members present said that time period saw many baby-boomers returning to Neligh to take over family-run businesses, purchase businesses from retiring owners or work at a successful trailer factory. Another community member said Neligh employed an economic development director during that time period, which may have played a role in the population boom.
Jensen also shared enrollment data for Neligh-Oakdale Public Schools from 2000-2013. Corrected numbers show enrollment has declined by 54 students in the last 10 years.
In comparing population to housing needs, Jensen said data is compared by doubling a household’s income to represent what their housing need is. The information showed Neligh has 21 more homes than needed for those in the under $50,000 housing unit and a surplus of 101 homes in $50,000-$100,000 housing units. The data showed Neligh is 89 homes below what is needed at $100,000-$300,000 housing units.
Jensen said a group of city officials, contractors, builders, realtors and landlords met earlier Thursday to discuss housing needs. She said finding rental units in Neligh was indicated as a key issue, as well as mid-level housing. Jensen said realtors indicated that the price isn’t the issue for homebuyers; it’s simply finding suitable, modern housing.
Jensen reiterated that similar conversations are happening in communities across the state, and that Neligh is not alone in its housing challenges. Jensen referenced a community that is purchasing homes that come on the market at $10,000 or less and demolishing them to removed blighted property and provide plots for new home construction.
A community member said Elgin providing a similar service and that several houses have been demolished already this spring through that effort.
Neligh Economic Development Director Greg Ptacek said the next town hall meeting will be scheduled for June.
Ptacek said content from the town hall meetings, Envision Neligh - an online, interactive forum - and a mail survey will be compiled into the planning document. Surveys were sent to residents in their April utility bills. Residents are encouraged to send their survey back to have a voice in the comprehensive plan.
Ptacek said completing this process qualifies Neligh for Leadership Designation by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, which will allow Neligh to apply for downtown revitalization funding of $400,000.