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Gretna property owners and mayor see potential in Good Life District, though concerned about "direction"

In a letter to members of the Revenue Committee, landowners say concerns relate to property rights and the newly reduced sales tax rate
Posted at 6:10 PM, Mar 25, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-25 19:10:37-04

What's next?

It's a significant question in Gretna - an approved site of one of a few Good Life Districts in Nebraska. Property owners within the boundaries of the district say they're concerned about the direction of this tourism tool. A new amendment, filed Monday by State Sen. Lou Ann Linehan (District 39), seems to support their concerns.

Associated bills (2023 and 2024) and new amendment:


Read further for the expanded story from on-air:




There's a sense that this moment in time is pivotal for Gretna's future.

"It's exciting. It's significant. It's a great area in our state so I think there's tremendous opportunity there. Now, it just comes down to executing," Drew Snyder explained.

Snyder is president of Woodsonia, which owns 140 acres near I-80 and Highway 31. The land is inside the boundaries which Rod Rates, who owns nearby Nebraska Crossing, applied for as a Good Life District.

In a letter shared with KMTV, several property owners who - combined - make up about half of the district, say they support much of a new bill, LB 1374. It's still in committee, but would settle some details around the tourism tool. However, it also generates concern.

Speaking for the landowners, Snyder said, "Our position is the map. What is being designated on other people's property, just needs to be public. So everyone's aware, all property rights and things of that nature are preserved."

They've proposed that a "disinterested" body make some decisions - compared to another private party.

In an email, Yates said, "A neutral party will be making the decisions - the Department of Economic Development."

3 News Now's Mary Nelson asked the DED to clarify how its role and Yates' intersect.

In a statement, a spokesperson said the Department is "only responsible for approving the district" and its boundaries, and "is completely uninvolved in any interactions between an applicant and any property owners."

But that's not the only issue that's murky.

"I think the cities need to play a critical role in this process," Snyder said - describing the need for buy-in.

And Gretna Mayor Mike Evans, who works in commercial real estate, would like for the city to be more involved, too.

Speaking about legislators and LB1374, which turns over part of the state's sales tax collected in a Good Life District to the developer to offset their costs, Evans said, "My concern is, here we are trying to find revenue to lower property tax, and if they don't do anything, or if they do it wrong and there's lawsuits, those give away $3 million to $5 million in sales tax."

Mayor Evans also said zoning and platting are concerns - best done locally with hearings and due process, compared to happening at a state level. But even the City hasn't seen what's planned for the land. The details are confidential by statute.

But in a recent Nebraska Examiner story, Yates talked about his vision to grow the Good Life District from 2,000 to 3,000 acres at a cost of roughly $5 billion.

Former Gretna City Council member and community advocate, Angie Lauritsen, believes a comprehensive plan is needed.

"There's a lot of different development, a lot of different things that are happening out here that needs to coincide with that. And I understand the thought process behind these Good Life Districts throughout the state," she said. Continuing, "I think it's okay to take a minute and push pause for a second - just make sure that it's the right place, the right time... and, that we have community buy-in. A lot of the responsibility falls on the City of Gretna and its residents in order to help fund these projects.

What resonates from each angle is the spirit of wanting the District to be successful - both for Gretna's sake and the State's.

NOTE: As of KMTV's last contact, and time of publishing, Sen. Linehan had not yet seen the landowners' letter.

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