The Greater Bellevue Area Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual 2021 Mayor’s Forum event last week, providing the local mayors an opportunity to share updates on their cities and allowing patrons to ask questions of the mayors.
The event was held Thursday, Oct. 28 at the Beardmore Event Center of Bellevue.
Bellevue is proud to be the fastest-growing city in the fastest growing county in Nebraska, said Bellevue Mayor Rusty Hike. The city has seen a 28% population increase over the last 10 years.
There’s plenty happening in Bellevue, with the library improvement project going forward with moving buildings and the at large council position being eliminated in 2022. Voters opted instead for a sixth ward to be added.
Plans are to add an amphitheater at American Heroes Park next year and the city has entered a public-private partnership for Winsor Cove, the former Haworth Park campground.
The city has allocated $18 million for street repairs and construction and has set aside $1.7 million for park improvements, including the summer addition of the Lookingglass Heights splash pad and all inclusive playground in Stonecroft Park.
The city is working with MAPA on a mass transit system plan that could connect into Omaha, bringing mass transit down Fort Crook Road.
Olde Towne redevelopment is also a center of focus, with about $50 million of development getting underway, said Hike.
Gretna has also seen explosive growth, said Mayor Mike Evans.
Major projects include the Hillcrest senior living facility, a multi-million dollar project on the former Kush mansion property, and the Gretna Crossing Park, which includes an aquatics and recreation center.
New businesses are opening in Gretna every day, with a Fareway being built on the Highway 6/31 corridor and recent openings of Ditch Witch and Hyvee Fast & Fresh. More than 1,300 residential lots are currently being developed.
A “fantastic school district” and Gretna’s I-80 access to both the Omaha and Lincoln markets are a huge draw, Evans said.
The city has numerous growth opportunities, along both the Highway 370 and Highway 6/31 corridors, and the future I-80 interchange. Plans to complete a corridor study are underway. The study is expected to take a look at the gateway corridor from Interstate 80 to the up and coming Gretna Crossing Park.
“We’re not just one big metro — each community has it’s own personality,” Evans said.
Though each unique, the mayors work together on various projects.
“The teamwork we’ve been able to do is the reason for our growth,” said La Vista Mayor Doug Kindig. “Even though we all work together, we want our own identity.”
La Vista is unique in that it is landlocked and has no more residential plats. It is also Sarpy County’s youngest city, incorporated 61 years ago.
The city is focused on redevelopment and getting residents involved with city decisions.
When opportunity for redevelopment arose, residents voiced their desire for a downtown area. The city is providing the infrastructure for the 84th Street redevelopment project, while private companies fund the rest.
A large indoor soccer complex is under construction in La Vista and an 84th Street bridge is being planned to further identify where La Vista begins.
Kindig touched on community dollars and that Keno funds helped pay for City Hall, the La Vista Public Library and the La Vista Police Department buildings. La Vista seeks financial strength and Kindig has hopes to diversify the tax base.
“We don’t want to rely on property tax forever,” he said.
Local government and working together is what makes these communities successful, Kindig said.
“Most of the people in La Vista know where I live,” he said. “Most of the people in La Vista have my phone number. We hear their issues at the ground level.”
Papillion is looking to manage growth and preserve community, Mayor David Black said.
City officials began looking at ways to maintain a “small town feel,” asking where the center of community was when that community meant thousands of people. This prompted the construction of Papillion Landing, Papillion’s community center.
Up-and-coming residential projects include the Bungalows on the Lake near 132nd Street and Lincoln Road, and the Tower District at 84th Street and Highway 370.
Currently, many Sarpy cities, including Gretna and Papillion, are looking to address the issue of “missing middle housing,” or building more homes for the middle class.
The City of Papillion will donate land at 108th Street and Highway 370 for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
With major projects in the works from Facebook, Google, R&R Commerce Park, Papillion Foods (Hormel) and Amazon, there is not much developable land left in Papillion, Black said.
The Facebook project recently announced an expansion to the south, bringing millions of dollars in development to Springfield.
The Highway 50 corridor to Springfield has seen incredible growth and the city is beginning to see more development, with the addition of 128 single-family residential lots going up in Springfield Pines and a new elementary school building downtown to be completed in the spring of 2022.
The City of Springfield was able to provide funding for new LED lights at the Legion ballfields, as well as lights, new restrooms and dugout updates at Springfield City Park. Both projects benefit local school children, who utilize the fields for their games.
Springfield’s growth largely depends on the Sarpy County and Cities Wastewater Agency’s efforts to build the Unified Southern Sarpy Wastewater System, to serve the southern portion of Sarpy County.
Sarpy County and the cities of Bellevue, Gretna, La Vista, Papillion and Springfield are all members of the agency and work together to advocate for growth in southern Sarpy County.
Mayor Paul Lambert of Plattsmouth and Mayor Donald Groesser of Ralston also spoke at the 2021 Mayor’s Forum, as they do each year.