15 December 2010

Environment Omaha Recommendations Unanimously Approved

The Omaha City Council unanimously approved the recommendations submitted by the Environment Omaha project.

The numerous recommendations and findings will now become the environmental component of the Master Plan for the city of Omaha.

Several proponents gave testimony at the December 14th council hearing.

The first speaker was Connie Spellman, director of Omaha by Design, and project manager for the effort. She was "proud to present an environmental plan for Omaha," the result of about 200 individuals providing at least 4000 hours of volunteer work.

"There was incredible volunteer support," Spellman said, adding that project participants "wanted to get as much community involvement as possible."

Participants in the project included local business people, city personnel from the mayor's office and public works and Parks and Recreation, advocates, and the numerous people whom attended the public meetings. A website was provided to provide regular updates and an opportunity to provide comments on the information presented.

A representative for each of the five primary topic areas, then provided brief comments on their particular subject.

They included:

Neal Smith, representing the natural resource advisory group
Marty Shukert, noting the need for a greater residential density and more extensive "active measures" of transportation, instead of individuals driving
Jay Noddle, developer of Aksarben Village, for the building construction group, whom noted the plan is a "chance for the community to be a leader and more responsible," and that after "lots of debate" ... "recommended goals that are achievable to make Omaha a model community."
Marcella Thompson, a ConAgra employee, for the resource conservation component, noting the "concept of continuous improvement," that "sustainability is a journey, not a destination," and commenting that "public education is a critical component"; and
Mikki Frost, of Alegent Health, on the findings related to community health, noting that Omaha is rated 142 among 182 healthiest cities, and that features of the plan could help "create and active, safe and healthy Omaha."

The plan "proactively lays the foundation for a sustainable city," said Rick Cunningham, planning director for the city of Omaha, and is a "paradigm shift" that provides an "environmental roadmap" that is "not revolutionary, but evolutionary in nature."

A representative of the League of Women's Voters said the plan is a "firm foundation for prudent decision-making."

There were no comments provided by local conservation groups or individuals.

No opponents spoke at the public hearing.

Approval of the plan does not commit the city of Omaha to any new spending or regulations, according to testimony presented.

"The plan is a guide which does not enact regulations," said Steve Jensen, former planning director for the city of Omaha, who was involved with the effort. It also does not stipulate creating any new public jobs.

The $75,000 effort was financed by the Papio-Missouri Natural Resources District, Metropolitan Area Planning Agency and the City of Omaha Public Works Department.

The initiative started in December 2008, with public meetings to discuss the overall effort, and subsequent meetings and discussions on each of the five primary topic areas.