With the process of updating Brainerd's comprehensive plan winding down, the public was given an early opportunity Wednesday to comment on the proposed document.
About 20 people, though only five members of the general public, showed up in the Mississippi Horizons Middle School cafeteria for a community meeting presentation and discussion of Brainerd's proposed comprehensive plan update.
The city of Brainerd began the process of updating its comprehensive plan in late 2002, when it hired Dahlgren, Shardlow and Uban to facilitate several public focus groups, which concluded in early 2003. In early 2004 the Planning Advisory Committee, through a series of meetings at Brainerd City Hall and with neighborhood groups, implemented the information from the focus groups into a draft comp plan.
Wednesday's meeting opened with Brainerd City Administrator Dan Vogt talking about the key points and highlights of the comprehensive plan, including city goals, growth plans, land use, development and utilities.
During the public comment portion of the community meeting, Brainerd resident Ed Shaw said he was concerned about what he saw as what he called a disconnect between comments made at focus meetings in late 2002 and early 2003, and what he saw in the proposed comprehensive plan.
Shaw specifically noted a map shown by Vogt that showed the 20- and 40-year possible growth of the city's planning boundaries, which extend out several miles. He said residents at the early comp plan meetings voiced concern about fringe development.
"I look at that map and it looks like we've got Brainerd on steroids," said Shaw. "I think the public wasn't listened to in this process and that's a problem."
Planning Commission member Bob Sherman responded that while the map did look like "something on steroids," people should remember that it is a plan for 20 to 40 years from now, and was included because it shows how the city would like to direct growth in fringe areas of the city.
"I don't think it's allowing uncontrolled development," said Sherman.
Vogt said most of the comments in the 2002 and 2003 comp plan meetings were included for discussion in the Planning Advisory Committee's review of the proposed comp plan.
"They didn't fall on deaf ears," said Vogt.
Another area that garnered discussion among those in attendance was the possibility of a bridge across the Mississippi River connecting Wise Road and Highway 210.
Karl Samp, vice president of community initiative with Little Falls-based Initiative Foundation and resident in the area proposed for the bridge, said it would be a shame to put a bridge there.
"The French Rapids area, to me, is the prettiest area in Crow Wing County," said Samp.
Brainerd City Council member Anne Nelson Fisher said the comprehensive plan is a compromise and is read in different ways by everyone. She noted the plan would be updated regularly.
"There are strong opinions. I'm not sure how someone could've written one statement to please all," said Fisher. "This is a work in process."
"Growth is going to happen. It's coming," said Vogt, stressing the comp plan is a tool for helping to direct and plan growth.
A public hearing for the proposed comprehensive plan will be held before the Planning Commission at 6 p.m. on April 27 at Brainerd City Hall. Final consideration of the proposed comp plan will be at the Brainerd City Council's May 3 meeting.
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