Any proposal to develop the remaining vacant portion of the former Knolls Golf Course will have to wait a few more weeks to see if it moves forward.
The Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Commission on Wednesday deadlocked 3-3 over a zoning change to facilitate the development of 36 luxury villas along with 75,000 square feet of commercial space on about 20 acres of former golf course land south of the old Cheney Road between approximately 22. and 24th Street.
Several neighboring property owners have given testimony opposing the plan, prompting complaints ranging from increased traffic to buildings that may be too close to them.
The biggest complaint among the neighbors appears to be the proposed change of about three acres of land along the old Cheney from residential zoning to commercial areas.
The site already has a small area of about two acres of commercial areas where the former Knolls restaurant was, but the developers are proposing to rezoning some of that land into residential with more commercial areas added along the arterial street.
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They suggest uses that include a medical office building, bank branch and restaurant seating.
The main point of contention is that the proposed commercial zoning, B-2, is less restrictive than the current zoning, B-1.
However, the developers have suggested limiting what can be developed and banning certain uses that are normally allowed on the B-2, such as hotels, gas stations, and restaurants that provide ride-hailing services.
Those concessions failed to impress neighbors who did not want expanded commercial uses.
“We don’t see any need for more business in the area,” said Tom Smith, who has lived in his home for nearly 50 years.
Smith said he would be fine with any permitted B-1 zoning use on the site, including the gas station.
He said he is also good at residential development but would like to see more of what developers suggest.
The minimum plot size for the current R-1 zoning is 9,000 square feet, and all of the proposed villas have an area much larger than that. But Smith said the surrounding homes sit on land of at least half an acre, and many of the homes adjacent to the land being developed will end up having three different lots surrounding it.
“We don’t need to change the region, we need a better plan,” he said.
Andrew Willis, the attorney representing landowner George Bousales, said he believes what is being proposed is a good plan.
The existing residential subdivision will allow up to 51 residential plots to be built without the need for approval other than to file a flat with the city. The 36-piece proposal is about 30% lower than this number.
Willis said that developers have offered to make concessions to neighbors, such as limiting the height of any commercial building to 40 feet, instead of the 55 feet allowed in zoning B-2, but have gotten no response.
Villas and planned commercial uses of an undeveloped portion of the former Lincoln Golf Course
The proposed development would bring homes and commercial uses to East Lincoln
Several neighbors said they feel the current development is being rushed and the process is much less transparent than the development of the western half of The Course, a retirement community of more than 130 units for independent living, assisted living, and memory care that opened in 2018.
The golf club closed in November 2015 after more than 50 years in business. Dial Realty purchased 14 acres west of Dora and built a retirement development. She revises her plan several times in an effort to win the support of the neighborhood.
Christie Joy, one of the commissioners who voted against the latter project, said she felt the need for more discussion between developers and neighbors including “thinking inside and outside the box” to find compromises.
Many of the commissioners, even those who voted against the project, said they liked the idea of the villas.
Commissioner Tracy Corr, who voted in favor of the zoning change, said she felt as though Neighbors was getting a “fantastic project” that was better than many other options that could be built.
Commission Chair Tracy Edgerton, who voted against the zoning change, said that while the villa development may not match what has already been built in the neighbourhood, “that does not mean it cannot complement it”.
The Planning Committee usually meets again in two weeks, but due to the holidays, the next meeting won’t be until January 11th.
The Board is made up of nine members, and a majority of those nine must vote for or against a project before it can bypass the Planning Committee’s consideration.
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