GRETNA, Neb. (KMTV) — The rapidly growing City of Gretna will be getting even larger.
Four years ago, Gretna annexed roughly 3,000 acres from Sarpy County.
The county sued and won in district court reversing the decision.
The issue then went to the Nebraska Supreme Court, which ruled Friday that the city can annex the land, growing the city by more than double its land mass and adding at least 60% more residents.
Mayor Mike Evans is pleased the city can finally move forward with its annexation plans that were in the works long before he took office six months ago.
“We’re just glad it was over,” said Mayor Evans.
The city was quickly growing before the annexations, and he now believes they can better control the growth with these annexations.
“We need the ability to manage that growth and if we don’t kind of have that control to manage what’s going on, and build the infrastructure where we think it needs to be, it will be difficult,” said Evans.
The new city land has a pocket northwest of town, but is largely east of Gretna, with the biggest area being along the Interstate 80 corridor.
That stretch includes Walmart, Sapp Brothers and Vala’s Pumpkin Patch.
“Some super businesses that are involved,” said Evans.
Sarpy County Attorney Lee Polikov told 3 News Now over the phone, that he fought the case to the state supreme court because he’s concerned about the higher taxes ag-producers will now have to pay, due to losing their greenbelt status, now that they will be within Gretna city limits.
Tim Vala with Vala’s Pumpkin Patch also told 3 News Now, he was disappointed for that same reason.
Evans says while taxes may go up for some, they’ll now have a stake in the city.
“Your taxes might go up but now you have a say in the government, or you’re just part of the community, or there is some value to just being with us but we just want to deliver as much value and hopefully save them money in the long run,” said Evans.
Sarpy County argued to the Nebraska Supreme Court that a city the size of Gretna cannot annex rural land, which is the law. But the Supreme Court ruled that because the land is likely going to be developed in the future, it can be annexed.
“In all of Sarpy County there’s just not much rural land left. Whether it’s by Springfield or Papillion or Gretna, a lot of this land is, if not developed, there’s developers looking at developing it so while it may look like cornfields, there’s plans behind almost all those cornfields,” said Evans.
The city currently sits at 5,000 residents, and the annexations could take months to complete, but when finished will push the city population to around 8,000 people, according to US Census data from 2010.
Since that data is 10 years old, and the city is still waiting for the 2020 data to come out, Councilmember Logan Herring said “my best guess is it’ll roughly go up to around 10,000 people.”
The city currently contracts with Sarpy County to police the city. Herring says the city has looked into adding a police department before but it would take millions to get it off the ground.
He says adding a police department could be something they reevaluate down the line, but they're happy with the value of what the Sarpy County Sheriff's office gives the city.
“For the cost that the taxpayers pay, Sarpy County is actually a great service,” said Herring.
The city was already required to redistrict city council maps, and Herring believes they could be adding new wards, meaning new council members leading the city.
Evans wants to make sure, regardless of growth, the way of life in the city doesn’t change.
“If it grows, it grows, the community and its values is really what it’s about,” he said.
It will likely take weeks, or months for the city to officially take over the land.
Polikov said he’s yet to dive into the details of the Supreme Court decision, but isn’t ruling out a possible appeal.