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Casino clears zoning hurdle; makes promise to add parking for semis
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Casino clears zoning hurdle; makes promise to add parking for semis

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WarHorse Gaming, Lincoln

Once complete, WarHorse Gaming expects its new casino at the Lincoln Race Course to be a boon for horse racing and the local economy.

A proposed casino in southwest Lincoln cleared a hurdle Monday with Lincoln City Council approval of zoning changes that allow the $200 million project to move another step forward.

The unanimous council action followed similar approval last month by the Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Commission for the site near U.S. 77 and West Denton Road, though the council added an amendment requiring developers to submit a plan to the planning commission to accommodate semi-tractor trailer parking.

The current plan allows for 1,250 parking spots but doesn’t address parking for semis, which are likely to stop at the casino given its proximity to the highway.

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Lynne McNally, executive vice president of the Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, told the council her organization is negotiating to buy more land to accommodate additional parking for the semis so parking for guests driving personal vehicles isn't limited.

WarHorse Gaming, a subsidiary of Ho-Chunk Inc., and the horsemen’s group are partnering to build WarHorse Casino and hotel at Lincoln Racecourse.

McNally said she has a verbal agreement on the land and is committed to the parking addition for semis, but couldn't add it to the zoning changes Monday since the sale hasn’t been finalized.

Her only concern with the amendment was that it not slow progress on getting a building permit, which city planning officials assured her it would not. Developers hope to begin construction next year.

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The amendment narrowly passed, with some council members saying McNally’s assurance that changes will be made — which will benefit the casino developers — is sufficient.

The council unanimously approved the zoning changes that reduce commercial space from 1.3 million square feet to 980,000, which includes the roughly 225,000-square-foot casino.

The proposed changes also would include the potential for 650 hotel rooms and up to 700 dwelling units.

The casino would have more than 1,200 gaming stations, a convention and event space, several restaurants and other amenities such as a spa.

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The zoning changes include waivers for the height of the casino, apartments and hotel. Developers also want to combine space now allowed for multiple free-standing signs into one large sign that would face U.S. 77.

Other potential development in the area could include apartments, at least one other hotel and service-type commercial uses such as a convenience store and additional restaurants.

There will be little impact to traffic on West Denton Road because most of the traffic for the casino will come from U.S. 77 onto the still-to-be-constructed South First Street.

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McNally, responding to questions raised last week by City Councilwoman Sändra Washington about the effect of the horse barns on water quality, said an agreement is in place to remove manure daily from the barns. Developers are hoping in the coming months to figure out a plan to use the waste for fertilizer rather than taking it to the landfill.

McNally said developers will be back before the council for zoning changes related to the horse barns.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7226 or mreist@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSreist

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Local government reporter

Margaret Reist is a Lincoln native, the mom of three high school graduates now navigating college and an education junkie who covers students, teachers and policymakers inside and outside the K-12 classroom.

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