If only our problems would respect the political boundaries we drew on the map many years ago.
Then Brainerd, Baxter, Nisswa, East Gull Lake and other communities could make their decisions independently without worrying about the effect outside of their borders.
We live in an interdependent world, however, where water still runs downhill and the decisions made by one city can have a big impact on its neighboring communities.
The free-for-all surrounding a tract of land in Unorganized Territory, just north of Brainerd and Baxter, is a good example of how connected the various units of government in this area are.
At stake is a piece of land along Highway 371 that some consider to be a prime development tract. It has been mentioned as the possible site for a Menard's store.
Others fear the fragile wetlands in the area and the propensity for water runoff to damage the nearby Northland Arboretum make it an unsuitable spot for development.
Brainerd and Baxter have both initiated annexation proceedings for the site in hopes they will have a voice in how the land will be developed. The Crow Wing County Board, which is the unit of government that currently makes decisions for the area, has imposed a moratorium on development in the Highway 371 area until more planning can be done on zoning and other environmental issues.
Each of these entities has a legitimate interest in how this land is developed. East Gull Lake can be thrown into the mix also because it has expressed interest in one day joining Brainerd's water system and that would possibly entail a link that might run through Unorganized Territory.
The involved units of government have talked on this issue but contentiousness has occasionally reared its head. It's not easy to resolve some of these problems and it's not surprising that our representatives experience frustration on this issue.
One way or another, however, the political leaders of this area are going to have to roll up their sleeves and actively plan for the future in a unified, cooperative effort. Joint planning is going to be needed. Consistency in zoning regulations is going to be important so future developers don't play one city off the other and attempt to trade off the tax base they provide for fewer restrictions. Our elected officials have to look 20 or 30 years down the road, taking into account the enormous population surge this area is expected to witness.
The alternative will be a hodgepodge of little fiefdoms with none of them adequately protecting the environment or truly serving the interests of their citizens.
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