Country Club group wants mural on Lincoln’s South Branch Library

The Country Club Neighborhood Association wants to add a little color to the mid-century modern library branch on the corner of 27th and South streets.

Association members last year approached the city with an idea: painting a mural celebrating books and reading on the west side of the library branch at 2675 South St.

The association said it wants the brick building more readily recognized as a library and members would be willing to pay for it.

The idea went to the mayor’s office, then the Urban Development Department reviewed it, as did the Historic Preservation Commission.

The idea, if everybody approves, is to let Lux Center for the Arts administer the project, seeking artist submissions and overseeing installation, though Lincoln City Library officials would get the final say on the art and location of it, according to documents filed with the Historic Preservation Commission.

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The 1955, mid-century modern building is part of a historic district, and city officials wanted feedback from the commission on any concerns about putting a mural on the west brick wall that faces the parking lot.

Library officials would like the project to be finished by September.

Budget time approaching

It’s budget time and the mayor’s office is hip-deep in preparing its latest biennial budget, which it will present to the City Council on June 10.

In preparation, city finance officials gave the City Council an update on how things are going so far this fiscal year. Among the highlights:

*The city has collected $58.5 million in sales tax revenue through March, on track with projections, though it dipped significantly in January (more than projected) because of a hard-to-estimate state business incentive program that provides tax credits, Finance Director Lyn Heaton told the council.

*That sales tax revenue makes up the biggest piece (nearly 39%) of the budget pie, followed by property taxes (35%), fees and other revenues (25%) and the occupation tax (2%). In dollars, budgeted revenue for the $261.5 million 2022-23 budget includes $101 million in sales tax revenue, $90.7 million in property tax revenue, $64.6 million in fees and other revenues and $5.2 million in occupation tax revenue.

*Those “other revenues” include a new stream of money — casino gambling taxes. The city appropriated $700,000 in casino gambling revenue for affordable housing, which hasn’t been spent yet. So far the city has collected $1.84 million, and anything above the $700,000 will be part of the upcoming budget discussions.

A few city departments offered updates, including the city-county Planning Department, which said it has processed more building permits over the past three years than anytime in its history.

Parks and Recreation officials focused a portion of their budget to plant more than 240,000 new trees and provide maintenance to 350,000 existing trees.

Liz Elliott, Lincoln Transportation and Utilities director, told the council that construction costs are beginning to go down.

Project approved

The City Council approved an annexation and rezoning of nearly 98 acres near 14th Street and Saltillo Road on Monday, the final step needed for developers to move forward with what longtime developer Rick Krueger called a sort of “unicorn project.”

What’s unusual about the deal — which took more than two years to put together — is that the city agreed to annex land from two landowners even though the land won’t have city water and sewer for at least a decade.

That allows the city to get sales tax and property tax revenue from the land.

Krueger Development Co. is working with several property owners to annex about 24 acres west of South 14th Street and just east of U.S. 77, which has been rezoned as commercial.

Although the zoning allows for a variety of uses including restaurants or motels, Krueger said the property owners agreed not to use the land for such purposes because of the lack of city water and sewer. More likely, he said, the space will be used for contractors, distributors or other businesses like painters or auto mechanics.

The other 74 acres just east of South 14th Street will be zoned industrial, though it is a high-standard industrial zoning, which means no smokestacks or dirty industries but more likely contractors such as electricians and plumbers.

Reaching an agreement on that land, which abuts Wilderness Park, was also complicated.

C.J. Guenzel, one of the lead partners in a limited partnership called FOG, agreed to put about 20 acres in a conservation easement that will be designated wetlands, donate another 5 acres of land that abuts Wilderness Park to act as a buffer between the park and the development, and retain a larger open space than the city requires along a flood corridor to slow drainage into the park.

Reaching agreement on those issues took much of the time, Krueger said.

“That’s part of the job: waiting,” he said. Now, though, he added, “we’re kind of off to the races.”

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Contact the writer at [email protected] or 402-473-7226. On Twitter at @LJSReist.