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Lincoln is growing again

Slowly … steadily … and according to plan
By: Paul Joiner
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In March of 2008, the city of Lincoln adopted its award-winning 50-year General Plan. The basic concept of the plan is to lay out and control future growth which preserves Lincoln’s small town feel and at the same time allow for the growth necessary to build a sufficient tax base to support the service levels and amenities Lincoln residents say they want.  The plan also requires that all future developments preserve a minimum 40 percent of project lands as permanent open space.

The General Plan serves as a long-term policy guide for physical, economic and environmental growth for the city of Lincoln. It provides the vision of its ultimate physical growth.

A copy of the General Plan is available on the city’s website. City actions, such as those relating to land use allocations, annexations, zoning, subdivision, design review and capital improvements must be consistent with the General Plan. 

The framework for much of the city’s planned growth is something called the Village Concept, which creates seven planned communities/“Villages” wrapping around the existing city. Each village is planned with a neighborhood commercial center at its core, with the exception of Village 1, which supports the existing commercial businesses in our downtown. 

Around that commercial core, in concentric circles expanding outward, will be high density residential (attached housing such as apartments, condos, townhouses, senior care facilities, etc.); beyond that, medium density single family homes and beyond that, low density residential and estate lots. The Villages are planned to be highly interconnected through bike and pedestrian trails as well as neighborhood electric vehicle lanes.
Schools, public safety needs, infrastructure needs and parks are all addressed in the General Plan.

In recent years, you may have heard that the city has annexed Village 1 (on either side of Highway 193 heading east) and “approved” 5,500 new homes. You may have also heard that annexation and a Development Agreement have been approved for as many as 2,470 new homes in Village 7 (south and west of Lincoln Crossing). You’ll soon be hearing that property owners in other villages may be coming to City Council seeking annexation and approvals for early stages of their planned developments as well.

What often goes unsaid is that this growth won’t take place all at once. It will be spread out over decades and the housing market will ultimately determine when and even “if” those homes are built.

Last year, the city issued about 200 building permits. This year, projections are for about 250 permits to be issued. The city’s current growth rate is somewhere in the range of 1.5 to 2 percent annually. Will that growth rate increase over time? Probably. Will our growth rate ever return to the heady days when Lincoln was the fastest growing small town in America? No.

The General Plan is a 50-year plan adopted just as the Great Recession (2008) took hold on the housing market. Its influences and benefits are only now beginning to be felt.
The next time you read that a tentative map or specific plan for new homes in one of the villages has been approved by the council, please know that does not mean that building permits have been issued or that construction of thousands of new homes is imminent.

The current population of Lincoln is a little over 48,000. The General Plan provides for a build -out population of somewhere in the range of 90,000 to 120,000 people at total build-out around the year 2060. Until then, our community will continue to grow … slowly … steadily … and according to plan.

Paul Joiner is a Lincoln City Councilman.