Brian Neben Lexington Clipper-Herald

LEXINGTON — Mac’s Creek Winery & Brewery plans to expand its outdoor space and add three cabins along Spring Creek.

Max and Barry McFarland, representing McFarland Family Farms, LLC and Irish Lads, LLC respectively, appeared at the Lexington City Council meeting on Tuesday, March 22.

McFarland Family Farms requested $220,000.00 from the city to expand outdoor space at Mac’s Creek.

Max McFarland said when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the area in March 2020, Mac’s Creek had to shut down for four months. He said they were working hard to retain their full-time staff but had to let their part-time staff go during the period, they have since rehired them as restrictions eased.

Max noted a recent study that found the restaurant, winery, and tasting room industry lost a million jobs and more than 9,000 of those types of businesses closed permanently during the pandemic.

He said that as restrictions began to ease for outdoor spaces, Mac’s Creek was using its outdoor patio space as much as it could while indoor regulations were still restrictive. Even after the relaxation of indoor regulations, Max said they have maintained some for the safety of their customers and staff.

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The plan is to rip out the existing wooden deck at Mac’s Creek and install a new, enlarged concrete deck. A roof will also be added to cover the space and a folding plastic cover will be used to make the enclosure weatherproof.

Photo CH • Brian Neben

Max said their current wooden patio space can accommodate around 40 people, this new concrete space should be able to accommodate around 150 people. He also noted that it would increase the use of their outdoor space by three or four months each year.

Mac’s Creek also plans to upgrade its kitchen equipment so that it can offer more catering, as its dining space will expand many-fold. Max noted that their indoor space is limited to around 60 people.

Barry McFarland also appeared representing Irish Lads asking for $110,000.00 to help add three cottages along Spring Creek to the wine estate.

Barry said the cabins would be a “luxury camp model” and could accommodate a queen-size bed, living area and bathroom. They would overlook Spring Creek and the winery.

Barry offered the description, “creek-sized cottages at Mac’s Creek.” These chalets would be open for people to spend the night on the winery.

Max said construction is expected to begin this spring and be completed by June.

A loan amendment with McFarland Family Farms under the Lexington Economic Development Program was also presented to council.

City Manager Joe Pepplitsch said McFarland Family Farms is adding the new loan, this amendment will help maintain the level of debt payments and service.

The City Council approved the new loan agreements with McFarland Family Farms and Irish Lads and the loan amendment with the former.

Council also considered the proposed redevelopment plan for the Fat Dogs Travel Centre.

Mike Bacon, who practices tax increment financing (TIF) and represents the developer, Wilkinson Development, gave a brief overview of the project.

High-volume diesel pumps will be added to serve the “important semi-trailer market”. As part of the plan, the current building will be renovated and expanded to provide a new restaurant and travel center.

A new canopy, underground piping and new pumps will be installed. A space will be created to the west of the pumps to allow approximately 10 semi-parking spaces.

The store expansion will add 6,480 square feet to the location, bringing total post-development coverage to 13,820 square feet. Five full-time jobs are expected to be added after the expansion.

Development of the project is expected to begin in May or June 2022.

Wilkinson Development applied for Tax Enhancement Financing (TIF) assistance in the amount of $700,000, which would be used to cover demolition, concrete, pipe and architectural costs. The total project cost will be approximately $5,348,500.00.

Bacon noted an issue mentioned at Monday’s Community Development Agency meeting on the logistics of semi-trucks coming into ownership.

Wilkinson Development owns the former Sonic location, just south of the land where the diesel pumps would be added. Access from this location could help ease traffic off the parkway.

Clarine Erickoff, chief operating officer at Wilkinson Development, said Wilkinson has been involved in a lawsuit with the site since 2019 and will soon be heard in the Nebraska Supreme Court. Erickoff said they had the deed in hand; they just can’t do anything with the property right now.

Council member John Salem asked if a tenant for the restaurant space had already been found, Erickoff said that until they had the redevelopment plan approved by the city, they had not not yet started negotiations.

The council approved the resolution of the redevelopment plan.

Another item was a loan agreement with the Greater Lexington Corporation under the Lexington Economic Development Plan.

According to the loan agreement, the amount is $250,000.00. Pepplitsch said this relates to work on Concord housing, north of Sandoz Elementary. There had been a plan to add 24 units and so far 16 have been built.

Pepplitsch said the plan is to complete the last two duplexes by the end of 2022 and the loan will help facilitate that. The board approved the deal.

The board approved an ordinance to reappoint Pepplitsch as city manager and set his salary at $135,500.00 per year.

The board also considered a resolution approving a preliminary supplemental engineering services agreement for the Lexington East Viaduct project.

Pepplitsch said the deal reflects the Nebraska Department of Transportation’s acquisition of a right-of-way in the area where the project will take place and that it needed more consulting services. The agreement was also “absolutely necessary” to ensure that federal funds could be used for the project. The council approved.

The next item was a resolution approving a conservation easement for the Central Platte Natural Resource District. Pepplitsch said the CPNRD is moving the easement outside the Lexington city limits and needs council approval, which it has granted.

The board also approved project closeout documents and certificates of substantial performance for Paulsen, Inc. and Van Kirk Bros.

During the public comment period, Dawson County Sheriff’s nominee, Cozad Police Chief Mark Montgomery and Dawson County Treasurer’s nominee, Motor Vehicle Supervisor Kaitlyn Woltemath, ran for office. council and asked for their support on election day.

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