Fairacres and Happy Hollow are NOT ‘blighted and substandard’!

Update: Success!

The Planning Board has agreed to remove our neighborhoods from the “blighted and substandard” area proposed for Crossroads redevelopment. Read the Omaha World-Herald story.

Thanks to all our neighbors for your support!

We have decided to leave the website active for the time being, to provide an information resource for other neighborhoods that may be targeted and want to resist being designated as “blighted and substandard”. Our experience proves that you CAN succeed against these designations. Good luck!

Action Alert: Public Hearing July 6

The Omaha Planning Board has scheduled a public hearing on the proposed “blighted and substandard” designation on July 6, beginning at 1:30 pm.

The public hearing will be in the Legislative Chambers (LC Level) of the Omaha/Douglas Civic Center, 1819 Farnam Street, Omaha.

Members of the public who can’t attend the hearing but wish to express an opinion can write before the meeting to the Planning Board, Room 1110, 1819 Farnam Street, Omaha, NE  68183. Copies of letters relating to the issue will be given to each Planning Board member.

We encourage all Midtown residents and concerned citizens to attend the meeting and speak out against this misuse of the “blighted and substandard” designation.

Click here to download the official meeting notice and description of the proposal in printable PDF format. This information will not be available on the day of the meeting, so it is recommended you review it in advance and bring your own copy for reference. Parking in the Civic Center lot may not be available, so we suggest you come early and be prepared to find or pay for parking elsewhere.

Background: What’s the Issue?

A developer has petitioned the Omaha Planning Board to designate the Fairacres and Happy Hollow neighborhoods as “blighted and substandard” so it can obtain Tax Increment Financing (TIF) for a development project.

BUT… Fairacres and Happy Hollow are among Omaha’s most beautiful and well-established neighborhoods. Applying the “blighted and substandard” designation to them clearly is a misuse of the intent of the TIF law.

Residents of these neighborhoods are banding together to try to stop the Planning Board from granting this designation.

This table shows recent assessed values of single-family homes in the Fairacres, Fairacres Place, and Fairacres Terrace neighborhoods. Do these figures look “blighted and substandard” to you?

Average Assessed $589,768
(26 over $1 million)
High Assessed Value $4,442,600
Low Assessed Value $174,900

What Should You Do?

The Planning Board will consider this proposal on July 6, so you need to act now!

If you live in the Fairacres or Happy Hollow neighborhoods, contact your City Council representative, Pete Festersen, by phone and/or email to let him know you oppose designating your neighborhood as “blighted and substandard.”

If you live elsewhere in Omaha, contact your City Council representative (see contact info at right) and let him or her know that you oppose this misuse of the TIF law. Make it clear that you feel it’s unfair to designate good neighborhoods as “blighted” just so a developer can get a tax loophole, and that you want tax incentives reserved for genuinely blighted neighborhoods that really need help.

Why Should You Act?

Residents of the Fairacres and Happy Hollow neighborhoods:

  • A “blighted and substandard” designation will reduce the market value of your property and make it more difficult to sell.
  • The designation will give the Planning Board the power to impose a development plan on your neighborhood without your consent.
  • The designation will allow the Planning Board to use its power of eminent domain to force homeowners to sell their property for development.

Residents of other Omaha neighborhoods:

  • Misuse of the “blighted and substandard” designation sets a dangerous precedent that could affect your neighborhood.
  • Granting Tax Increment Financing to a development project that doesn’t really need it lets the developers take that project off the tax rolls, shifting more of the property tax burden to individual taxpayers.

Anyone concerned about fair taxes and good government:

  • A “blighted and substandard” designation for beautiful, well-established neighborhoods is a mockery of the intent of the law.
  • Letting developers misuse the “blighted and substandard” designation is bad for genuinely blighted neighborhoods that legitimately need development incentives.

What is the Law?

The legal definition of a “blighted” area is defined by Nebraska state statues to mean an area within a city or village:

(A) Which by reason of the presence of a substantial number of deteriorated or deteriorating structures, existence of defective or inadequate street layout, faulty lot layout in relation to size, adequacy accessibility or usefulness, unsanitary or unsafe conditions, deterioration of site or other improvements, diversity of ownership, tax or special assessment delinquency exceeding the fair value of the land, defective or unusual conditions of title, improper subdivision or obsolete platting, or the existence of conditions which endanger life or property by fire and other causes, or any combination of such factors substantially impairs or arrests the sound growth of the community, retards the provision of housing accommodations or constitutes an economic or social liability and is detrimental to the public health, safety, morals or welfare in its present condition and use; and,

(B) In which there is at least one of the following conditions:

1. Unemployment in the designated area is at least 120% of the state or national average.

2. The average age of the residential or commercial units in the area is at least forty (40) years old.

3. More than half of the plotted and subdivided property is unimproved land that has been within the city or village for forty (40) years and had remained unimproved during that time.

4. The per capita income of the area is lower than the average per capita income of the municipality in which the area is designated.

5. The area has had either stable or decreasing population based on the last two decennial censuses.

Recent census data and data for zip code 68132 provides the following information:

(A) We do not have evidence of substandard or deteriorating structures.

(B) Unemployment: The average unemployment in our census tract (based on 2005-2009 estimates) #47 = 0; if we include census tracts #46 (.51%) & 64 (0) add & divide by 3 = 0.17%.

As of April of 2011, according to U.S Labor Statistics, average unemployment in Nebraska is 4.2% To be blighted our unemployment would need to be at 120% of the State of Nebraska, which would equal 5%; we are 0.17 %

Age of housing: Most of the houses in the area are over 40 years old.

Plotted and subdivided property: Memorial and Elmwood are the only undeveloped plots; they are parks and they are protected. We do not want them “blighted” either.

Per capita income: Per capita income means every person, whether child or adult. The average per capita income of census tract 47 is $52,947. This is above the average per capita income of Omaha, which is $26,247. The income of the area exceeds that required by the TIF law.

Population: Census tracts 4600-3, 4700-2, and 6400-4 are the census tracts included in our area. According to the US Census of 2000 and 2005-2009, census tract 4600-3 lost 40 people; census tract 4700-2 (Fairacres) gained 339 people; census tract 6400-4 gained 32 people. This means there was a net gain of 331 people in these three areas.

Therefore we do not meet the above critera to be blighted at all, except on the criterion that our houses are more than 40 years old

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