Monday, August 6, 2001- 8:15a.m
Conference Room 113
COUNCIL MEMBERS IN ATTENDANCE: Jon Camp, Common Chair; Glenn Friendt, Annette McRoy, Coleen Seng, Ken Svoboda, Terry Werner; COUNCIL MEMBERS ABSENT: Jonathan Cook. MAYOR WESELY: In Attendance
COUNTY BOARD MEMBERS IN ATTENDANCE: Larry Hudkins, Ray Stevens, Bob Workman;COUNTY BOARD MEMBERS ABSENT: Bernie Heier, Common Vice-Chair; Kathy Campbell.
OTHERS IN ATTENDANCE: Mark Bowen, Ann Harrell, Mayor's Office; Norm Agena, County Assessor; Fred Kasolo, Federal Highway representative; Kathleen Sellman, Director and Steve Henrichsen, Jean Walker, Planning; Allan Abbott, Director and Nicole Fleck-Tooze, PW; Bruce Medcalf, County Clerk; Mark Hunzeker, Attorney; Concerned Citizens; Gwen Thorpe, Kerry Eagan, Office of the County Board; Darrell Podany, Aide to Council Members Camp, Friendt and Svoboda; Joan Ray, Council Secretary; John Cutler, KFOR News; Chris Hain, Journal Star Representative
POLICY ON WEBSITE INFORMATION AND PRIVACY ISSUES - COUNTY ASSESSOR
POLICY ON WEBSITE INFORMATION AND PRIVACY ISSUES - COUNTY ASSESSOR - Mr. Norm Agena, County Assessor, came forward to make the presentation. Mr. Agena gave a brief explanation of the County Assessor's website. He noted that it was initiated in 1997 because the office didn't have enough personnel to answer the phone calls that were coming in. At that time, there were about 150 subscribers to the main-frame - mostly financial institutions and title companies, real estate agencies, etc. What they got was limited information...because all of the information on there is coded. If someone doesn't know what the codes are, that one doesn't know what information is actually there.
Mr. Agena noted that there were some changes made to the site to make the information more available and understandable. Insurance companies and attorneys and just the general public use it a lot. For an idea of the usage that the site gets, in April of this year we received 361,883 hits; January - 323,000; February - 347,000; March - 378,000 and in May and June, Mr. Agena felt it would have picked up after the increase notices are sent out....it gets a lot of use.
Mr. Agena explained, in response to an e-mail received from a concerned citizen, that no floor plans are posted on the website. The only drawing on the website is what is called a "footprint", which is the outside dimensions of the property only. He noted that with that information, his office receives calls from people stating that the square footage figure is off, or the number of baths is incorrect. This allows us to make a lot of corrections on problems we have with property information.
The photos of properties cover all of Lincoln's residential properties and the surrounding villages. The majority of the commercial properties are being worked on now. As far as rural America is concerned, we're picking those up as we go out and visit properties. Eventually, everything in the County will be posted. There will be approximately 90,000 photos that will be available. He thought that at this time they were only about 10-15,000 short of being complete.
Mr. Agenda explained that he is required by statute to have a photograph of every property in the County. Prior to the move to this building, he stated that they used to have Polaroid pictures of the properties. Since the Polaroid photos turn brown and fade after two years, they decided to get digital cameras so the pictures can be downloaded into the system so it will be there permanently until such time as photos have to be re-taken.
Mr. Agena opened the floor for questions from the Common Members. Mr. Bob Workman asked Mr. Agena, that with some people being concerned about the privacy issue, is there anyway they can deed their property into a "dummy" name so they could have privacy? Mr. Agena stated that they could. He elaborated stating that everything that is on the website is "live data" on the main-frame. So, if there are any changes to ownership, for example, on the main-frame, it appears instantly on the website.
Along that same line, Mr. Agena noted that they'd had requests from judges, law enforcement, "Friendship Home" and a variety of other groups to have their information deleted. He informed the Common Members that he has three County Attorney Opinions which say that you can ask, but at this point, by State Statute, we can not delete the information, because the main-frame information is our `property record card' which is required by statute. Even though it is not in a printed format, if it is on a computer in a database somewhere, it is considered to be a public record. Mr. Agena stated that his office has received requests from people to have their information removed because "now people know where I live". He has looked in the phone book - they're listed there with an address and a phone number. Some have expressed concerns about people now knowing where the front door is. Mr. Agena stated that one doesn't need to be a rocket scientist to know that the front door is on the front of the house. So, some of these concerns are groundless.
Mr. Friendt asked if there was any personal, private information that appears in this database? Mr. Agena stated that there was not. It is all public record except social security records and personal incomes. (When working with the Homestead Exemption office - they're required to give us those social security numbers). Everything else that we have is and should be public information. Mr. Friendt asked for clarification of the "footprint", wondering if that was just the outside dimensions of the house and where it is located on the property. Mr. Agena stated that is was only the outside dimension, not even including the location on the lot.
Mr. Werner asked, merely for verification, that the "footprint" did not show any interior rooms or floor plan layout? Mr. Agena stated no - though when this idea was started there was a discussion from either the Fire Department or the 911 group wanting to overlay rooms and their exact locations so they would know the exact location of every room -especially the bedrooms- in the house [during a fire or emergency situation]. He stated he did not know whatever happened to that idea; the Assessor's office does not track that information.
Mr. Camp stated that he thought that was a good point because he has sent the fire department actual schematic layouts of commercial buildings to help in emergency situations. He stated that he wouldn't be surprised if at some point they might not want to have that available. It would make fire safety and prevention better. He thought if that ever comes about that the information should be kept in a confidential manner. Mr. Agena stated that they could do that, but his office had no need for it.
Mr. Camp stated that the economics of the Assessor's office must be substantially better - with 300,000 hits in one month, they could never deal with that many phone calls! Mr. Agena stated that they probably get 40 to 100 calls per day from people who don't know we have a website or who have very specific questions. He thought real estate agents use the site a lot. Curious neighbors also call. Mr. Friendt asked if they track who is making the inquiries. Mr. Agena stated that they do not; I.S. keeps track of the number of hits per day, but not who is making them.
Mr. Workman noted that during the Board of Equalization hearings, there had been a number of people who commented on how much they loved the website. They were able to investigate a neighbor's house evaluation [comparability] and were consequently able to lower their property tax valuation. They went away from the podium with some very positive comments on it.
Mr. Camp noted that it levels the playing field. Another gentleman in attendance stated that he had been using it since it came on line to look at valuations to make personal net-worth statements for clients. It's also a useful tool in finding out if property taxes have been paid. The information, in conjunction with the information from the Treasurers' Office has been extremely helpful. He noted that he had never found anything on there that would be considered confidential. He had also compared this website to Douglas County's and it compared in a very favorable light. They could learn something from the way you've set this up. He felt we were very fortunate for what the County Assessor's Office has done on the website and for the information that is available.
Mr. Agena stated that the information posted is for the preceding year which sometimes is confusing to the general public. The first part of the year, the information would be for the prior year. But, after the 1st of August, then the 2001 values are shown.
Mr. Hudkins indicated that the website and information is very helpful to the Board of Equalization. But, he is glad that on this layer the detailed information of the floor plans and layouts is not available. He felt, however, that we need to keep the options open for emergency and fire services in the future being able to have an overlay for that information if it is needed.
Mr. Camp stated that real estate agents show schematics. Mr. Agena stated that every sale that is done in the County is re-checked for the accuracy of the property's data record card. If the property is vacated, we do note that as well.
Mr. Friendt asked if the 300,000 hits might be from the novelty of the new "tool" as opposed to normal business levels. Mr. Agena stated that in 1994 re-evaluations, they went from the cost basis (so much per square foot) to a market value. In conjunction with that we pulled four to five comparable properties. The thing that happened then was we did not have website information available at that point. We were getting deluged with thousands of calls. Everyone in the office was answering phone calls. People called in asking for print-outs of the properties we had. We no longer do that. He stated that if he didn't have the website, he wasn't sure if another six staff people could handle the phone calls seeking information. When you look at 362,000 hits in April, that probably means there ware at least a 100+ thousand who got into the system initially and searched around and looked for some other stuff on there too.
He stated that if you'd want to pare it down to the first 100,000-120,000 they would probably have resulted in some sort of a phone call to our office for either title or assessed value or property information.
Mr. Friendt stated that in the commercial business world, people are understanding that they have to move away from just saying they got so many numbers of hits. That's such a gross assessment of how effective websites are that you're going to see more and more definitions of what those hits are and where they came from. He noted that there are some easy ways to do that. He stated that he would like to follow up later with Mr. Agena on that.
Mr. Camp noted that he uses the site probably at least every other day. It's become quite a tool on gathering information on his properties. It saves a great deal of time and it's much more convenient. Appraisers and others would be saving significantly on staff time. And it's probably a tremendous savings to the Assessor's Office in staff time and copying.
Mr. Agena agreed that it is an economic benefit to his office. He also offered to show anyone who was interested, the information available on the website. Mr. Camp stated that the focus was on the privacy and the questions that had been raised were answered. Ms. McRoy asked if the e-mail received in the Council Office had been responded to and Mr. Agena answered that it had.
BELTWAY RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE PLANNING COMMISSION - Mr. Allan Abbott came forward and introduced the report. He noted that the Planning Commission had acted upon staff recommendations by forwarding to the City Council and County Board the recommendation on the South and East Beltways. He noted that the study has been on-going for more years than many would like to remember, and he thought that we were getting to the point where a call has to be made. Mr. Abbott stated that he agreed with the staff recommendations, noting that there has been a lot of time, effort and study going into this. He gave the floor to Steve Henrichsen for the presentation.
Mr. Henrichsen stated that he would go through the presentation that had been given at the Planning Commission. He noted that it basically goes through the major points in terms of the Comp Plan Amendment. One of the main things stressed at the Planning Commission Public Hearings was that there are really two separate public processes. One was the Comments that were held on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). Those were the comments received by the Federal Agency. He requested the Commons Members to also note that Fred Kasolo of the Federal Highway Commission was in attendance today to answer any questions.
He stated that there was a great deal of comment from the public which the Common Members have all received. In terms of the Comprehensive Plan Amendment, how the Beltway fit or did not fit within the terms of the Comp Plan was really what we were looking at during the hearings before the Planning Commission.
Mr. Henrichsen outlined the goals in the Current Comp Plan. They talked about carrying out the study which preceded the development of the of the Beltway and the Antelope Creek project. The Beltway should be looked at in terms of completing a circumferential road system for the City and also to have the Beltway function in terms of external truck traffic.
Other goals of the Comp Plan were to have the Beltway integrate open spaces and not just function as a roadway. We were also looking at the Beltway as including trails and this included both the Antelope Valley and the South and East Beltways. Other goals related to the beltway further reinforced the idea for external trips as related to truck traffic. With the trail involvement, we're looking at the potential for storm water drainage in the corridors as well. Also, when looking at other goals of the Comp Plan in terms of the impact of the of the Beltway on any type of zoning or traffic pattern we should make sure that they are compatible with the existing character of both rural and urban areas. We should preserve `under production' agricultural land; looking to preserve and enhance native prairie and other natural ecological prairies both in the City and in the County. And we should be looking at not only transportation for cars and at roads, but at other public transportation options as well for the beltway.
Mr. Henrichsen outlined the Four Beltway Corridors' that are under consideration and gave a brief history of the Beltway process beginning with the 1994 Comp Plan Amendment through to the final Public Hearings schedules.
Mr. Henrichsen explained the criteria for recommendations of the Planning and Public Works Department on the South Beltway (which is generally in the area of ½ mile south of Saltillo Road connecting Highway 77 on the west with Highway 2 on the east). In terms of how we evaluated each of the routes, we looked at both the different types of transportation functions which come from the Comprehensive Plan. This is to complete a circumferential road network and to provide internal traffic relief, to establish a new truck route around the City and then incorporating the ideas of a multiple-use corridor for trails, open space and looking at utilities and at other transportation modes.
South Beltway: In terms of the South Beltway we found that it certainly provided one part of the circumferential road network. It could provide some amount of traffic relief, but the key here was Highway 2. We wanted to make sure people understood that this reduced the amount of future increase in traffic on Highway 2, but it certainly would not reduce the amount of traffic on Highway 2 as it is today.
It would certainly also serve some of our future urban area. The City limits in the current Comp Plan will extend all the way down Saltillo Road to be within about ½ mile of the South Beltway. The South Beltway would provide a new truck route around the City in the south portions and there is certainly some potential for a multi-use corridor. LES has plans to have a new transmission line generally in this area, and has discussed with staff some possibilities of providing a brand new transmission line in the general area of the south beltway corridor.
It is also thought that in terms of the social and economic and environmental impacts, (as with any of the routes) there will be a certain amount of residential impact. The South Beltway had five homes to be relocated and one business. There was some amount of adverse noise impacts; additionally visual impacts on homes, and 587 acres of farmland within the beltway itself. It did include one adverse impact in terms of one historic property. That is an adverse impact in terms of Federal Guidelines Section 106.
On funding, in 1996 there were 107 Million Dollars in Federal funds set aside for the South Beltway project, so that meets the Funds Approved goal. The Planning Commission recommendation includes language which indicates that the South Beltway should proceed first, not only with funding, but with construction as well.
Recommendation on the South Beltway: The Planning Department and Public Works recommendation then is approval of the South Beltway because it had completed all the transportation functions and generally because, even though it does have some residential impact and we don't want to downplay that, but in terms of the corridor, it certainly does a great deal to minimize the amount of social and economic impacts; as well as having the ability to further reduce those as we go on with the project.
In terms of the East Beltway, one of the main things that came up in public discussion was whether this will be a beltway or a by-pass. The terms have been used interchangeably, but we view this as a beltway completing a circumferential road system. I-80 is the north part of the beltway, with Highway 77/Homesteader Beltway as the west portion, versus a simple by-pass which is just a route to go around a town and is not necessarily a part of a complete circumferential road network. Again, both the South and East routes would complete a continuous system. Another thing, as well, we're looking at Highway 77 as part of the West Beltway. We had a portion of urban development at Roper School in southwest Lincoln to the west of Highway 77. The Highlands, the Airport and Arnold Heights are already to the north. The north portion of the Beltway is I-80.
Mr. Camp asked in looking at that as a beltway, how many miles, generally speaking, (assuming East Middle for the sake of calculations) would the circumference be? Mr. Henrichsen answered that that was a good question. He knew it was 13 and 8 for the South and East, but he was not sure what the West and North portions would be. He stated that it is something that could easily be calculated. Mr. Camp stated that he would also be curious as to how that milage would compare to comparable cities and the circumference and distance of their beltways. Mr. Henrichsen stated that he would get that information for Mr. Camp.
Mr. Henrichsen commented that before he got to the specifics of each of the three east routes, he did want to spend a few moments in discussion about the other non-beltway items that were looked at: the DEIS, looking at the base road network where, in the Comprehensive Plan, we already have a number of four-lane roads to be improved in the future. They had looked at the 98th Street and Yankee Hill Road as a four lane road with a Wilderness Park crossings and with no Wilderness Park crossing; and options of 84th Street and Pine Lake Road as six-lane roadways with Wilderness Park crossings. Each of these options failed due to it's economic impact or the social impact which was brought out during the process - particularly looking at 84th Street and Pine Lake Road to six-lanes. That had many more impacts to existing residences than any of the beltway options.
For the East, we also looked at the DEIS, 184th Street-type options, looking at both a non-beltway option with 148th Street just being widened to four-lanes. That actually had higher social impacts in terms of impacting residences than the East Far alone. It did have lower costs, but it had less travel savings than having 148th Street as a beltway. We also looked at 148th Street in terms of a beltway option itself. Just improving it to four lanes, we're moving all the access and having intersections two miles apart. This had much higher impacts and higher costs than the East Far route itself. [Mr. Henrichsen showed slides of Prairie Home Village to illustrate his remarks]
East Beltway - The East Far Route: The East Far Route is generally about 141st Street, between 134th and 148th. The East Far would complete the circumferential road network; but in terms of internal traffic relief, it would not significantly reduce traffic on 84th Street or any other arterial. This is also true of the East Middle and the East Close. All three routes do very little in terms of reducing traffic impact on 84th Street and other north-south arterials.
It would provide a new truck route. In terms of a multi-use corridor, though, we felt that it had much less of an opportunity for a multi-use corridor than the East Middle did. The LES line was already established in this area; that, along with the East Middle route. The remote location gave less of an opportunity, in the future, in terms of alternative transportation needs. It does, as do all three routes, bi-sect the MoPac East Trail. But as far as integrating with the Stevens Creek potential open space in the future, it had much less of an opportunity for that.
In terms of Social and Economic and Environmental impacts, eight homes and 19 areas of residential uses were impacted; there were visual impacts on 41 homes.
Comparing these impacts to some of the other routes - the East Far generally had about the same environmental impacts as the East Middle, but it has more residential re-location than the East Middle does. It also has more visual and noise impacts than the East Middle. In most categories, it is, of course, less than the East Close. The East Close has far higher impacts in almost all of the categories than either the East Middle or the East Far. Certainly, within much of the discussion, the East Far has more impacts on historic structures than the other two routes.
In terms of the Comp Plan and local historic properties, there are seven properties of historic interest within the East Far route. In terms of the Federal guidelines, at this point, the DEIS had not shown any historic properties, so these historic property concerns are of a local nature.
The estimated cost is $128,000,000 with no Federal funds having yet been set aside, for the East Far route. Certainly there would be more length of roads to improve in leading out to the East Far than either of the other two routes, just given it's distance from the existing City.
A lot of discussion also concerned the East Middle and the East Far regarding urban sprawl. Mr. Henrichsen noted that they had been encouraged in that the Comprehensive Plan had a 50 year history of comprehensive planning. The current goal is for the Comp Plan to encourage contiguous development and efficient use of the infrastructure. And, really, we already have experience with I-80 and Highway 77 in terms of what type of development the community likes or the standards that we'd like to have along the other two portions of the beltway.
Really, roads do not dictate the future. It is up to the community, through setting goals and through comprehensive planning and individual actions as to what we want to have in terms of our growth pattern along the beltway. It won't be the beltway itself making those determinations.
Recommendation of the East Far Route: Mr. Henrichsen stated that, looking at the whole range of options, they had recommended Denial of the East Far route. It would require back-tracking on the circumferential road network at the north end of the route where you'd have to head back to the west if your were heading east to Omaha; there are fewer opportunities for a multi-use corridor; less travel savings. In terms of the Comprehensive Plan implications, the East Far route has more residences than the East Middle; a high quality native prairie on the north part of the route; and potential impacts to seven historic local properties. Generally, the East Middle is the better alternative with less impact than the East Far.
The East Middle Route: The East Middle route would complete the circumferential system, but offer relatively minor traffic reduction for internal traffic relief. Certainly here though, in providing a multi-use corridor there is the most opportunity with this route. The power lines, the trails, the Beals Slough drainage area and four-lanes of Highway 2 are all within this one corridor.
Mr. Henrichsen explained the widths of right-of-way along both the roads crossing the beltway and the beltway itself. Cost projections were based on a 300 foot right-of-way. One of the things in the Comp Plan amendment that was forwarded by the Planning Commission was a clarification of what is being adopted in terms of North and South and East, the corridors are being narrowed from several miles wide, to a corridor about 1320 feet wide - about a quarter of a mile in width. Then, as you move forward with the final design, if there are some properties that would like to have the route move a few hundred feet in one direction or the other to reduce the impact on homes, those requests could be evaluated during the final design stage.
The multi-use corridor effects and open space uses were explained briefly. Mr. Henrichsen discussed he flood plain, in terms of the East Middle, which does have a fairly significant crossing of Stevens Creek just south of "O" Street and a minor crossing of the creek farther to the south.
Comp Plan implications note that only four homes and no businesses were effected in terms of relocations. Generally, in most categories, the East Middle route has less or equal of an impact as the East Far, and less of an impact than the East Close in all of the categories. There is one NRD farm pond that would be within the route; however, the NRD farm pond is not set for construction this year, so there is the opportunity to work with the NRD in potential modification of the route. The NRD and LES will be on hand for the hearings on the 15th and 22nd. Neither the NRD nor LES is taking a position either favoring or opposing any of the three East routes.
Mr. Henrichsen stated that he had commented on "only" four residences being involved, and noted that certainly any amount of residential impacts are something very serious to consider here, both in terms of impacts and relocations. He continued, stating that noise impacts are listed in terms of "adverse" impacts, which is a Federal category. Beyond those with adverse noise impact, there will certainly be a number of properties that will have an increase in the amount of noise, though not reaching that level of "adversity". The number of properties that will have visual impacts are also listed.
In comparing the East Middle, the environmental impacts are fewer in all categories than the East Close; it has fewer impacts of historic structures than East Far. The estimated cost is $152,000,000 with no Federal funds having yet been set aside.
Recommendation on the East Middle Route: Over-all, looking at all of these factors in combination, the Planning Commission recommended Approval of the East Middle route. It completes the beltway, provides a truck route, does not have any of the back-tracking of the East Close or the East Far; has the greatest potential for a multi-use corridor. In terms of the Comprehensive Plan impacts, it is generally very close to the least impacts on residences and environmental impacts as well.
The East Close Route: The East Close route involved significant back-tracking to get to the north portion of the beltway. The East Close would complete the circumferential road network, but would only reduce the traffic on 84th Street by approximately 5-16%. It does provide a new truck route, but is very limited in terms of it's potentials for a multi-use corridor. In terms of the social and economic impacts, it has the greatest impact in all categories. There would be six homes to be relocated; but it has adverse noise impacts on ten homes; visual impacts on 58 homes. There are a number more homes that have an increase in noise which do not reach that "adverse" level. Prior modification to two NRD ponds would be required; it does not have any impacts in terms of historic properties. In comparison, it has generally more impacts in all categories than either of the other two routes, except for the historic category.
Mr. Henrichsen stated that between the three routes - the East Close and East Middle are nearly the same cost - The East Close is estimated approximately $147,000,000. It is the most expensive route when you combine it with the South Beltway. It would require additional interchanges that are not required by the East Middle Route.
Recommendation of the East Close Route: Mr. Henrichsen stated that because of the significant amount of back-tracking, the low opportunities for multi-use corridor, and its having the most impacts in terms of social and environmental impact, the Planning Commission recommends Denial of the East Close route.
Mr. Henrichsen stated that they would take questions now or requests for information that any Common member would like presented at the August 15th Meeting. He stated that the total number of miles which had been requested by Mr. Camp would be one of the questions addressed at that meeting.
Mr. Larry Hudkins thanked Mr. Henrichsen for the presentation and asked if the three routes and pertinent information could be put on a grid sheet so they could be compared side-by-side? Mr. Henrichsen answered that they could and also pointed out the Staff Report does include a comparison of all the routes out of the DEIS.
Mr. Werner asked what types of transportation are being addressed when "alternate transportation" is mentioned. He also asked what, specifically, is being done in the construction process to accommodate alternate transportation modes? Mr. Henrichsen stated that they are currently in the Comp Plan stage of the beltway. Part of the discussion had been that a beltway itself may provide, either as a corridor or as a roadway, the opportunity for mass transit, potentially with busses...using the beltway by integrating with an over-all system. At this point there are no details. This is something that will be looked at under the long-range transportation element of the New Comprehensive Plan under consideration now.
Mr. Friendt asked Mr. Kasolo if this plan was actually violating Federal requirements in some of these historical impact situations. Mr. Kasolo stated that there had been a lot of comments on the historic impact of this project. He noted that they were still in the process of reviewing some of those comments at this time in order to make a decision. Most of the concerns relate to the boundary issues at this point. We have looked at it with the State Historic Preservation Office and right now feel comfortable with the boundaries that they have identified. We're not complete with what we're doing. We have some additional coordination with the State Historic Preservation Office as well as with the Federal Advisory Council, before we move forward with the document. He did not think there was any direct violation of Federal Laws or procedures at this point in time.
Common members continued discussion with questions regarding their concerns such as the rationalization used in determining the need for a beltway, elevation and grades near LES power lines, drainage and flood plain issues, truck traffic and internal traffic concerns, access roads and historic sites, size of right-of-way and corridor width, zoning, design, design and construction time, funding - including Federal support of the project, land acquisition, and impact on agricultural development. They requested clarification on some points of the presentation and discussed the issues to be addressed at the upcoming public hearings, including the actual public hearing meeting formats. Staff answered the questions, if not to everyone's satisfaction, at least to a point of understanding. Mr. Camp thanked Staff for a well-prepared presentation
OLD BUSINESS - None
NEW BUSINESS - None
ADJOURNMENT - Mr. Camp requested a motion to adjourn. The motion was made and seconded. Mr. Camp noted that the Common would stand adjourned until the September 11th meeting. The meeting was adjourned at approximately 9:55 a.m.