Consensus was reached on what needs to be done first as Crow Wing County's comprehensive plan moves forward.
Thursday night the county board met in a joint session with Planning Commission and Board of Adjustment members to look at those first steps and how they could be accomplished. They agreed staff should look for outside funding or grants for assistance, should look for a balance between staff work and outside consultants, gain additional input from the townships and report progress to the county board.
Bonnie Finnerty, county planner, suggested four top things to work on right away:
* A future land use map to provide direction for development (currently the county has a zoning map that shows what is existing land use). The county's job would be to look for themes from townships and see what kind of regional goals can be accomplished. A future zoning map can be used with the comp plan to develop and reassign land classifications.
* Update the zoning map. A benefit for the public would be the ability to view the map online and check zoning via the Web.
* Update the subdivision ordinance, which Finnerty said is outdated and poorly written.
* Update the remaining section of the zoning ordinance.
"Those are the top four items I think we need to attack," Finnerty said.
In regard to the land use map, Finnerty sent requests to each township asking what residents wanted to see. About half responded. Little Pine Township actually created a map. Others began taking resident surveys and were working with consultants.
Ed Larsen, county commissioner, said he talked to representatives of three townships and they had good community input.
"I went to one meeting in Timothy Township and I think everyone from Timothy Township was there," Larsen said. " ... And they have a very detailed plan. ... I'd like to see us honor those requests as much as possible."
Dewey Tautges, county commissioner, noted the construction season had arrived and time was of the essence. He said the county previously stated land classifications would be done in 90 days and that deadline is long past.
Terry Sluss, county commissioner, said the Brainerd Lakes Area Chambers of Commerce offered to work with the county to locate grants or fund-raising efforts in order to move the process faster. John Ferrari, county commissioner, suggested Finnerty work with Brainerd Lakes Area Development Corp.
Sluss said anything the county would spend now would be reserve funds as there is no new money until next year. Finnerty said she was researching the work of other counties, such as Washington County's subdivision ordinance.
Denny Myers, county land use and solid waste enforcement officer, said the county has the talent to work on the ordinances but staff members do not have the time.
Finnerty said Minnesota Counties Insurance Trust attorneys were interested in providing legal expertise as ordinances are written. She suggested having a consultant on retainer with the board deciding the dollar amount for expenditures.
Walters said with three different boards -- which do not agree and each having a say about the county's future look -- the comp plan process could be like watching the Brainerd City Council.
"We can't all agree but we can't be polarized," he said.
Larsen said: "We shouldn't agree but the Planning Commission should know what the problems are. It's the county board's job to make sure all this happens."
The county board previously set April 27 as a public hearing date to adopt the comprehensive plan.
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