Residents of a subdivision in northeast Lincoln who oppose a large apartment complex in their neighborhood may be heading to court.
The City Council voted 5-0 Monday to deny an appeal by residents and approve a special permit sought by the developer to replace 77 proposed single-family and townhomes with a 462-unit apartment complex at Dominion at Stevens Creek near 105th and O streets.
The Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Commission approved the special permit in November and the council heard from neighbors last week, then postponed a vote to try to clarify what land was covered by covenants signed by developers and residents.
The subdivision, which has been developed in phases, is generally bordered by O, Vine, 104th and 112th streets.
Kathy Doornbos, among the residents who oppose the apartment complex, said if the council didn’t postpone a vote to give residents time to hire an attorney and work through the covenant issues, or deny the special permit, neighbors would head to court to seek an injunction to stop construction of the housing development.
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Several neighbors reiterated their concerns Monday: That an apartment complex would increase traffic congestion in the neighborhood and along O Street; that it would lower the value of their homes; that it would create an eyesore at the highest point in the development; and that it ignores promises made and expectations of homeowners that they wouldn’t have apartments in their neighborhood.
Gregory Frayser, an attorney representing the developer, told the council that the covenants represent a contractual agreement between two private parties — the developer and homeowners — and any dispute should be decided in court, not by the council.
Frayser said the covenants in question don’t apply to the land in question, but that doesn’t matter.
“That matter, to the extent it’s viable, is for the district court of Lancaster County,” he said.
The council’s job, he said, is to decide if the planning commission followed existing rules and regulations in approving the permit.
The special permit doesn’t require any waivers or zoning changes, and even with the apartment complex, the subdivision would still fall below the zoning density restrictions, he said.
The council approved an amendment developers added to the special permit intended to address concerns by residents in Dominion and the adjacent Waterford Estates: to include a 100-foot setback on the north and west sides to help create a barrier between existing homes, to route traffic toward O Street and to file a covenant stipulating any development on the final undeveloped outlot must be single-family homes.
The four council members present — Richard Meginnis excused himself because of a potential conflict and Jane Raybould was absent — said despite their vote, they understood neighbors’ concerns.
“This is a very sticky wicket,” said Councilwoman Sändra Washington. “I have spent a lot of time reading and rereading letters from residents of Dominion and Waterford Estates and I appreciate your passion in bringing this forward.”
But she said the council also must follow zoning and platting rules so that developers know what to expect.
Councilman Tom Beckius said he knew the council’s vote wouldn’t bring any comfort to residents, but successful development includes diversity of housing in neighborhoods. An apartment complex in the area might give people a chance to live in a neighborhood they might otherwise not be able to, and could provide a pathway to someday owning a home in the area.
Councilman James Michael Bowers said the council has to act for residents to move forward in court if that’s what they want to do, and there will be sufficient time to do that before any construction begins. Councilwoman Tammy Ward and Bennie Shobe provided the fourth and fifth votes.
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