The Omaha City Council on Tuesday stepped toward approving a controversial apartment development proposed for 192nd and Leavenworth Streets.
The council voted 5-2 to approve the 272-unit Grove Ridge apartments. It did so after a lengthy hearing, attended by about 50 residents of the adjoining neighborhood of single family homes, the Grove.
The neighbors oppose the apartments. They and attorneys for their homeowners association and subdivision board cited concerns about traffic, the apartments’ proximity to homes and a growing number of apartments in the area.
Joanna Webster and other neighbors said the developer’s and the city’s traffic studies underestimate the amount of traffic that the apartments would generate.
She also said it was wrong to assume that apartment dwellers would zip straight to 192nd Street, instead of traveling through the Grove on its twisty, steep residential streets to 180th Street.
Neighbors already travel though the neighborhood to school and to the Village Pointe shopping center, Webster said. And she said there are 30 children, ages 8 months to 16 years, on just 1½ blocks of Jones Street, which would connect to the apartments.
“We cannot absorb that amount of traffic on our street,” she said.
Neighbors also argued that the city’s master plan does not allow multifamily housing on the site.
David Mayer, president of the Grove Homeowners Association, said neighbors don’t oppose development in general. “But we don’t feel that this meets the requirements in the master plan.”
Larry Jobeun, attorney for the developer, said the master plan does allow multifamily housing in such a location. He said the council has supported such a position by approving at least seven similar developments in similar locations in recent years.
An Omaha city planner and a city attorney backed that view, as did the Omaha Planning Board in October.
So did a majority of the council in voting to approve the preliminary plat for Grove Ridge. Chris Jerram, Ben Gray, Pete Festersen, Aimee Melton and Garry Gernandt voted yes. Rich Pahls and Franklin Thompson voted no.
The fight may not be over. More votes are ahead for the project, although an affirmative vote on a preliminary plat is usually followed by further approval.
Neighbors signaled during the meeting that they would consider legal action to stop the project.
Asked after the meeting if neighbors would sue, attorney Heather Voegele-Andersen said the attorneys would ask the boards of the homeowners association and subdivision for their opinions.