By: Liz Veazey, Mode Shift Omaha Board member
I am excited to see more dense development in my neighborhood due to the Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Plan currently proposed by the City of Omaha. The TOD plan is connected to the new Omaha Rapid Bus Transit (ORBT) that is launching later in 2020 and in addition to proposing new zoning for areas surrounding the ORBT route, the plan includes requirements for bike parking and improved pedestrian friendly streetscapes (example in image below).
Mode Shift has encouraged members to attend past neighborhood TOD sessions around town and generally supported increased density in Omaha. I live on the edge of Dundee and my neighborhood association, Dundee Memorial Park Association (DMPA), has done some good work educating my neighbors about the TOD: see article starting on page 1 from the June newsletter , putting a flyer on neighbors’ doors, a recent Facebook livestream & discussions like this on the DMPA Facebook page. However, DMPA is organizing people to push back against the recommendations of the city and request a lower density zoning designation for most of Dundee (specifically they want most of the orange color below–TOD 3-MNR to only be TOD 4-SFA). The new zoning is only opt-in and would require each property owner to make the case to their neighbors and City Council before a change would be made to the zoning.
Here’s the Dundee area TOD plan (see key below & more info here)
Mode Shift supports diversity of building types, preservation of historic buildings, and cultivating interesting pedestrian landscapes. We have been involved in fights to save historic buildings in Omaha including the Specht Building downtown, which was saved from demolition through collaborations between Restoration Exchange, Mode Shift and other groups. I am a member and supporter of Restoration Exchange, I have worked to preserve my 1940s home, and I support historic preservation. At the same time, I support increased density in our neighborhood and I think we can have increased density and continue to preserve the historic and beautiful characteristics of our neighborhood.
Here is a quote from a former Mode Shift board member, Stephen Osberg, from the chat during the DMPA Facebook Live event on TOD:
“In response to that question about how the new zoning is applied (which is confusing due to the opt-in nature of things): once the TOD zoning is approved, everyone’s zoning will remain unchanged. If you are R7 now, you will stay R7. If you are R4, you will stay R4. The TOD designation provides an alternative treatment that people can opt into by going through the typical rezoning process. That requires going to the Planning Board and City Council, which require public comment. This doesn’t automatically rezone anyone’s property. …
Two things: 1) The zoning for the vast majority of Dundee is higher than what is being proposed (R7 & R8). Much of what people say they fear would actually be easier under the current zoning than the proposed zoning. 2) Because the zoning is opt-in, people could develop under either the new zoning or old. If you want more control over the type of development in Dundee, try to move away from the opt-in route to a mandatory rezoning.”
Show your support for increased density and TOD by signing the Missing Middle Housing Campaign’s petition here and you can submit comments to the City of Omaha on the TOD plan here–includes the full plan (you can include general comments at the end or just reach out to Derek Miller in the Planning Department: Derek.Miller@cityofomaha.org ) DEADLINE is June 29th
For reference here is a Coalition Letter in support of Omaha’s Proposed TOD:
The following groups wish to express gratitude and support for the City’s proposed Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Implementation Policy and Code. This policy is a significant step towards an Omaha with more home choices of all shapes and sizes, near jobs, schools, and transit, and neighborhoods where all Omaha’s citizens can afford to live.
By supporting more “missing middle” housing in Omaha like townhomes and pedestrian scale apartments, this plan will help provide seniors the options they need to age-in-place by staying in their neighborhoods, and bring about the vibrant walkable conditions attracting young people and their employers, all while protecting Omaha’s historic neighborhoods through its careful consideration of the TOD zone placement.
We have a choice in Omaha, we can either allow compact and convenient homes near transit as we once did adjoining the early 20th century streetcar system, or we can continue largely restricting our residential neighborhoods to one form of building; the large-lot detached house. This zoning policy of exclusion has not served Omaha well, stonewalling renters, low and middle-income citizens, and young people in search of a starter home, out of neighborhoods-of-opportunity. It has created unchecked suburban sprawl and its accompanying vast swaths of pavement, engine smog, and straining city budgets. While this plan has aspects that can be improved, it was considered after extensive public outreach, input, and deliberation.
We ask the Mayor and City Council to approve the proposed TOD Implementation Policy and Code.
To Sign Your Organization on to this letter reach out to: firstname.lastname@example.org
All images are from the Transit Oriented Development plan here