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NP City Council OKs last fill-dirt permit tied to Sustainable Beef

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North Platte City Council members Tuesday approved the last local conditional use permit for supplying fill dirt to Sustainable Beef LLC’s upcoming construction project.

Their 7-1 vote to approve Gary and Ruth Stearns’ city permit followed a 55-minute executive session during which raised voices in the council chamber could be heard in the hallway outside.

Lincoln County commissioners Monday unanimously approved permits for the Stearnses and Robert Long, who would each provide dirt from properties respectively three miles southeast and northeast of the project site at Newberry Access and Golden Road.

The dirt will fill in the 8- to 10-foot-deep former sewer lagoon that Sustainable Beef purchased from the city for the planned 1,500-head-per-day plant. The firm has said it plans to build up the site 5 feet above the current berm.

Long needed only a county permit, but the Stearnses, who live at 2482 E. State Farm Road, needed both city and county permits.

The border of North Platte’s two-mile zoning jurisdiction outside city limits crosses the couple’s land near Old Highway 83 that will help supply dirt.

No council debate followed the closed session, sought by Councilwoman Donna Tryon after a public hearing in which no members of the public spoke.

She said she didn’t understand how the Stearns project fit with Section 156.321 of city code, which covers conditional use permits.

“I’m thoroughly confused, and I don’t know what ramification my vote will have on this,” Tryon said. “If someone can explain it to me, because the ordinance they’re quoting, to me, doesn’t make much sense. … I just don’t want to slow the process up.”

After a Planning Commission review and public hearings, Section 156.321 says, the council may “authorize the establishment of special exceptions in the form of conditional uses … if it is found that the location and characteristics of the use will not be injurious to the health, safety, morals and general welfare of the area.”

City Attorney Terry Waite told Tryon she had to state one of the reasons listed in state law for calling an executive session for her motion to be valid.

“With all due respect, Donna, they don’t include being thoroughly confused,” Waite said, “despite how easy it is to be thoroughly confused on this topic.”

He and Mayor Brandon Kelliher asked if Tryon was concerned about city liability if someone might file a lawsuit over the fill-dirt operation.

“I guess I’m concerned about that,” she replied.

Tryon’s motion for a closed session prevailed, 6-2, with Council President Jim Nisley and Councilman Brad Garrick voting “no.”

Nisley offered the successful motion after the closed session to grant the permit. It’ll last for 10 years, but the Stearnses will have to submit a “stormwater pollution prevention plan” for each unrelated future construction light that might seek more than 1 acre’s worth of fill dirt from their land.

In other business Tuesday, the council gave 5-3 approval to amending city codes to allow legal Sunday alcohol sales during the same hours as the rest of the week.

Members, citing a desire to protect against legal snags, had tabled the necessary ordinance Sept. 6 for review.

When it takes effect Oct. 5, alcohol may be legally sold inside city limits from 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily. Sunday sales had been limited to noon to 1 a.m.

Representatives of five restaurants and microbreweries had said competitors outside city limits can offer brunch-style drinks or cocktails on Sunday mornings. Golf courses outside city limits also had an advantage attracting tournaments with Sunday rounds, they said.

Councilman Ty Lucas, who sponsored the change, said he talked to five off-sale liquor outlets after Nisley had expressed concerns Sept. 6 about its effect on their operations.

Representatives of those outlets, Lucas said, told him it’d be easier to train employees handling alcohol sales if daily hours were consistent.

Woods, Tryon and Councilman Ed Rieker voted against lengthening Sunday hours. Tryon said people she had talked to “haven’t really been too enthused about this.”

People who want to buy alcohol in the morning could do so on other days, she said. Also, “if there should be a casino come to town, (on) Sunday mornings (with) people sitting in there drinking, I guess I fail to see where the good in this would be.”

Council members also:

Approved a two-year contract with Municipal Light & Water’s employee union and renewed interlocal agreements for road maintenance, dispatching services and assignment of a Police Department resource officer to North Platte Public Schools.

Set the city’s annual 2022-23 user fees after Kelliher assured Rieker they could be changed in midyear if inflation makes it necessary.

Gave second-round approval to an ordinance vacating alleys on two sides of 1218 N. Ash St., next to Zeller Motor Co. at 505 Rodeo Road. It needs one more positive vote Oct. 4 to be adopted.

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