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Nebraska Land Use Planning (1-NE-a)

In Nebraska, a developer should ensure the proposed project complies with the adopted land use plans and zoning regulations. In Nebraska, land use planning is a function of cooperative local government action. 18 N.R.S. §§ 2101 et seq., Community Development Law; 13 N.R.S. §§ 801 et seq., Interlocal Cooperation Act. Municipalities and counties may prepare and adopt comprehensive land use plans, as well as formulate and adopt zoning regulations. Nebraska Planning Handbook, at p. 5-1; 19 N.R.S. § 925; N.R.S. § 23-114.01. Municipal and county land use plans must include an energy element that “assesses energy infrastructure and energy use by sector…and evaluates the utilization of renewable energy sources; and promotes energy conservation measures that benefit the community.” 15 N.R.S. § 1102; 19 N.R.S. § 903; N.R.S. § 23-114.02.

Land Use Planning Process

1-NE-a.1 – Is there a Comprehensive Land Use Plan in Place?

The developer should check the local government website, or contact the municipal clerk, or planning board clerk to determine if there is a comprehensive plan where the project is located.

Nebraska – 15 N.R.S. §§ 101 et seq., Cities of the Primary Class ; Nebraska – 19 N.R.S. §§ 101 et seq., Cities and Villages; Nebraska – 23 N.R.S. §§ 101 et seq., County Government and Officers define and describe the legal aspects of comprehensive planning in Nebraska. These laws allow and encourage the adoption of comprehensive plans for all Nebraska municipalities and counties, but do not require it. Municipal and county comprehensive plans will provide a context for determining if the proposed development activity is compatible with the community’s overall plans for development. Nebraska Planning Handbook. Activities that are consistent with the comprehensive plan are much less likely to result in impacts to the community character or to the environment. Nebraska Planning Handbook.

1-NE-a.2 – Review Municipal and County Land Use Plans

If there is a comprehensive plan, the developer should research the plan and any accompanying maps, studies, or other information in order to determine the goals and planning strategies that apply to the proposed project site, and if there are any recommendations applicable to it. Some plans are general in nature and do not make specific recommendations for individual locations in a community. Other plans are very specific and include text or maps indicating exactly what is planned for a particular location. The developer should become familiar with what, if any plans exist for the parcel, as well as what the vision, goals, recommendations, and general mapped land use plans may be included. Nebraska Planning Handbook.

1-NE-a.3 – Review Municipal and County Zoning Regulations

A developer should review the applicable municipal and county zoning regulations to ensure the proposed project will comply with the zoning regulations. A zoning ordinance or zoning regulations adopted in a village, city, or county must be consistent with and in accordance with the comprehensive development plan in that jurisdiction. 19 N.R.S. §903; 19 N.R.S. § 114.03. The Nebraska Supreme Court has not required that all zoning be exactly as shown on the land use plan, but the Court does consider the land use plan for re-zoning purposes. Nebraska Planning Handbook, at p. 7-5.

1-NE-a.4 to 1-NE-a.5 – Does the Project Require an Zoning Ordinance Variance?

If a proposed project does not comply with zoning regulations, a developer may submit a petition for variance to a zoning ordinance to the applicable Board of Adjustment of the municipality or county. A Board of Adjustment is a committee, independent from the municipal or county planning commission. 19 N.R.S. §§ 907 -912; 19 N.R.S. §§ 168.01-168.04; Nebraska Planning Handbook, at p. 5-1. As a quasi-judicial body, the Board of Adjustment “deals exclusively with the application of zoning regulations…” Nebraska Planning Handbook, at p. 5-3. The Board of Adjustment has authority to hear and decide applications for a variance from a zoning regulation regarding a particular piece of property. Nebraska Planning Handbook, at p. 5-3. The petition for variance to a zoning ordinance petition requirements and procedural process varies pending on the jurisdiction.

1-NE-a.6 to 1-NE-a.8 – Does the Project Require a Proposal to Amend or Adopt a Comprehensive Plan or Zoning Ordinance?

A developer may propose to amend or adopt a municipal or county comprehensive plan. Nebraska – 15 N.R.S. §§ 101 et seq., Cities of the Primary Class; Nebraska – 19 N.R.S. §§ 101 et seq., Cities and Villages; Nebraska – 23 N.R.S. §§ 101 et seq., County Government and Officers. In addition, a developer may propose to amend a zoning ordinance. 19 N.R.S § 904-905; 23 N.R.S. § 104.

1-NE-a.9 to 1-NE-a.10 – Publish Notice of Public Hearing

The applicable legislative body must hold one or more public hearings and provide notice of the public hearing(s), regarding the proposed comprehensive plan or amendment to the plan, or zoning regulation. 19 N.R.S § 904-905; 23 N.R.S. § 164-165.

The legislative body must publish notice of the hearing in a newspaper of general circulation in the jurisdiction at least once and at least ten (10) days prior to such hearing. Nebraska Planning Handbook, at p. 7-10; 19 N.R.S § 904-905; 23 N.R.S. § 164. “In counties, notice of the time and place of such hearings must also be given in writing to the chairperson of any municipal, county, or joint planning commission (or local government clerk) in the State of Nebraska, which has jurisdiction over land within three miles of the property affected by the action being considered.” Nebraska Planning Handbook, at p. 7-10; 19 N.R.S § 905; 23 N.R.S. § 164; 16 N.R.S §§ 405-406; 17 N.R.S. § 613.

1-NE-a.11 to 1-NE-a.12 – Does the Applicable Legislative Body Approve the Proposal?

If the legislative body adopts the proposed comprehensive plan or zoning ordinance the applicable county or municipality must publish the adopted plan or ordinance in accordance with 19 N.R.S § 905; 23 N.R.S. §§ 164, 114.03.

1-NE-a.13 – Appeal Decision (If Applicable)

Any party aggrieved by a decision by a local official in charge of administering zoning regulations may appeal, within a reasonable amount of time, to the Board of Adjustment within the applicable jurisdiction pursuant to 19 N.R.S § 909 and 23 N.R.S. § 168.02.

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