Staff Writer Eugene Curtin asked the City Council candidates what they envision for the development of south of Bellevue and how they propose to pay for it. Below, in article format, are their thoughts.
Ward I Councilman Scott Houghtaling believes Nov. 6 will be a big day for Bellevue voters, who must decide whether to approve a half-cent increase in the sales tax.
Approving it will give the city an important tool to finance the development of land south of Offutt Air Force Base, he said. Withholding approval will make the task of attracting businesses to that land impossible.
“If we don’t have infrastructure in place, they’re not coming,” he said.
Houghtaling’s opponent, Steve Carmichael, who served 17 years as Bellevue’s chief building official, acknowledges the area cannot advance without roads and sewers, but is not convinced that increasing taxes is the best way to finance the work.
“I’m more of a private developer individual,” Carmichael said. “I don’t think we should spend money outside the city limits for those types of improvements.”
He said the city held “million of dollars” in sewer connection fees during his tenure as chief building official, and that would be a better place to look for funds.
“I’m still evaluating the half-cent sales tax increase,” he said.
The two Republicans agree the likely future of the area is industrial, though Carmichael said the only thing preventing more diverse development is the zoning.
“While the land has no floodplain issues because it’s protected by a levee, and although the land is suitable for multiple purposes, it’s a logical assumption that what goes in there will be an extension of what’s already there, which means industrial,” he said.
On the other hand, Carmichael said, the arrival of the new U.S. Highway 34 bridge “will change everything.”
“From my perspective it’s not our position to say we won’t take a Target down there but we’ll take a coal plant,” he said. “If somebody wants to invest millions of dollars to build something, and it’s suitable for that area, then they should be able to rise and fall on their own merits.”
Whatever ends up populating that land, Houghtaling said the infrastructure problem needs to be resolved soon.
“We are trying to become proactive with economic development,” he said. “ There’s always been kind of a stigma with Bellevue that we don’t get out ahead of things.”