LEXINGTON — Curious as to what the priorities for the City of Lexington are this year? The Lexington city council approved the 2020 Development Action Plan during their meeting Tuesday, March 10.
A broad look at the action plan shows the city plans to focus on housing, redevelopment activities, public transportation, inter-local cooperative programs, community education, support educational and business programs, economic development, encourage leadership in the area and upgrade public facilities.
According to the action plan, "The City of Lexington places high importance on setting and achieving goals for community and economic development issues. Such planning is intended to be done in collaboration with area local governments, development groups, and residents."
Housing: "Recent housing studies indicate that Lexington is currently in need of new and rehabilitated housing opportunities across all population and income classifications, and that the existing housing market will not reasonably support the expansion or relocation of workers and families to the area. The community has an estimated housing vacancy rate less than 3 percent, compared to a healthy rate of approximately 7 percent," according to the plan.
The city has several housing developments which are being used to grow the number of homes in the community. The Southwest First Addition was initiated in 2017 with two housing projects intended to provide 320 new units over a five year period. So far 105 have been produced.
The Northwest Housing Development is an area which the city, Community Development Agency, CDA, Greater Lexington Cooperation and Lexington School District hold 75 acres of residential property.
Since development in 2017, around 83 single-family lots are available, with the city marketing the lots, according to the action plan.
"Additionally, a 24-unit condominium development is under construction in the Northwest Fourth Addition. The Concord, a 55 plus owner-occupied project, currently has 12 units occupied, with 4 additional units pending construction in early 2020," the action plan states.
A recent development is the Northeast Housing Development. The city recently acquired 24 acres of property which is suitable for residential use. In the area, six vacant residential lots with the necessary infrastructure exist.
The CDA will develop a single-family modular home on one of the lots to showcase potential for development.
Another recent development is in the east of the community. St. Ann’s Catholic Church controls around 104 acres of viable residential development property on the east side of N. Taft St. from 3rd to 13th St.
According to the action plan, "The Church has interest in making the property available for the development of workforce housing projects that align with the development goals of the City, as well as their organization’s mission."
In 2019, the city approved an agreement with Prairie Fire Development for the construction of a 50 unit housing project, with the city providing the infrastructure.
"Overall, the St. Ann’s property has the potential to accommodate between 200-300 housing units, based upon average density considerations," the action plan states.
Other ways the city will address the housing need is through improvement planning, flex housing and supporting housing for senior citizens.
Redevelopment: The city also will focus on promotion of redevelopment activities in all areas of the community, which include, infrastructure, land acquisition and removal of dilapidated structures.
One primary area of focus is the Highway 283 corridor which sees the highest volume of traffic entering and exiting Lexington daily. While the 2020 plan doesn’t lay out specific steps the goal is in the future to give a positive first impression of the area as well as providing opportunity for retail and small business development.
Another area is the Union Pacific Railroad corridor, according to the action plan, "over the years, many commercial or industrial uses were conducted on the UPRR right-of-way corridor through the community. When the uses ceased, facilities became underutilized, abandoned, and unmaintained, leading to nuisance conditions."
The city has worked with Union Pacific on the removal of dilapidated structures and will continue to work into the future on the development of green spaces and pedestrian trails along this area.
The city is also looking to revitalize the downtown area.
In 2010, Lexington was awarded a grant under the Downtown Revitalization Program, DTR, from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. According to the plan the grant allows for, "study and develop a plan to strengthen the downtown business atmosphere, improve and rehabilitate the downtown, and reduce substandard and blight conditions that currently exist."
The study was completed in April 2010 and the city council has been taking steps to implement improvement. Projects in the future include, "e infrastructure improvements, property
redevelopment, building renovation, and aesthetic enhancements," according to the action plan.
Public Transportation: The city is also working to improve the transportation network throughout Lexington.
The one and six year road plans reflects the city’s plan to provide quality roads for the citizens of the community. The future road plan will be available to view on Oct. 1, 2020.
The east viaduct project has been an ongoing collaborative effort between the city and Dawson County. Engineers were selected for the project and an environmental review was completed at the end of 2019.
According to the action plan, "In 2020, the City will diligently move the project into final design and preparation for bid letting by the end of 2020 or early 2021. Construction of the grade separation is anticipated to begin in 2021."
Public transportation is provided by RYDE Transit, a regional public transportation provider under the Community Action Partnership of Mid-Nebraska, under contract with Dawson County, according to the action plan.
In 2013, the city partnered with RYDE and now financially supports the service.
Inter-local Agreements: The city finds it’s important for the groups within Dawson County to cooperate on planning, financing and implementing projects, not just for efficacy, but effectiveness and responsiveness, according to the action plan.
The city has a collaborative relationship with, Dawson Area Development, Lexington Housing Authority, Greater Lexington Corporation, Dawson County, Lexington Public Schools, Lexington Regional Health Center, Lexington Rural Fire District, Lexington Community Foundation and the Lexington Chamber of Commerce, states the action plan.
Community Education: The city currently maintains a general website and publishes a newsletter called, "City Happenings."
According to the action plan, "The website and newsletter are seen as semi-successful; however, technology advancements and an increase in ways consumers choose to receive information (i.e. text messaging, social media, etc.) allow enhanced opportunity for local governments to communicate with citizens, customers, and visitors."
The city’s plan is to use electronic media to further improve the sharing of information with the community.
Educational and Business Support Programs: —"The ability to provide a capable and educated workforce is a pressing issue across Nebraska, as well as the nation. Learning centers are an accepted and indispensable part of worker training programs and a source for educational systems to reach new groups of non-traditional or disengaged students," according to the action plan.
In Lexington, the Dawson County Opportunity Center "is a local effort to provide educational, training, and support services to individuals and businesses in the region in a "one-stop" environment. Local partners with a current presence in the facility include: Central Community College, Nebraska Workforce Development, Dawson Area Development, City of Lexington, Lexington Chamber of Commerce, and Lexington Public Schools," the action plan states.
In 2020, the city plans to continue supporting education, workforce training, business retention and business development.
Economic Development: The city is committed to providing technical or funding assistance to prospective projects which look to site or build in Lexington. The action plan states, "Projects that are
viable and in the best interest of the area will be supported to a level that resources allow."
Another aspect of development the city is interested in is speculative buildings. "The availability of industrial and commercial building space in the community is needed into the future. The goal of constructing speculative buildings is to encourage business development and/or expansion," the plan states.
Leadership Development: "The continued growth of leadership in the community is a concern moving into the future. With a diverse cultural make-up, Lexington has an exceptional opportunity to foster a broad-based leadership program for future generations. Effort to identify opportunities should be undertaken over the planning period," according to the action plan.
Upgrade Public Facilities: While the city has been working on improvements to public park facilities over the years, areas like landscape, equipment shelters, restrooms, sidewalks, lighting and water systems in the city’s older parks continue to show the effects of age and deferred maintenance, according to the action plan.
Improvements to the park system require a substantial investment over a long term period, the plan states.
"Three notable park facility projects that are in the conceptual phase of development are the Veterans Pavilion at Kirkpatrick Memorial Park, the Lexington Indoor Recreation Center, and the "Oak Park Splash Park," according to the action plan.
The 2020 Development Action Plan can be viewed in its entirety at the City of Lexington website.