The difference between Crow Wing County's proposed comprehensive plan and other plans that gathered dust on a shelf may be in a section called implementation.
The comp plan draft is not finalized, but Bonnie Finnerty, county planner, said much of it is completed. The comp plan committee still needs to review a few sections. The schedule is about a month behind. But the goal is to have a completed document next month and another public hearing, and then have the plan before the county board by the end of the year.
About 70 people filled chairs and booths in the Central Lakes College cafeteria Thursday night for a presentation on the draft plan. By a show of hands a good number were attending a comp plan session for the first time.
"We are living in an exciting time in Crow Wing County," said Karen Christofferson, comp plan committee chairwoman.
The road to update the comprehensive plan began about a year ago. The last comprehensive plan was completed in 1994 but zoning and the subdivision ordinance are based on language created in the 1970s.
Finnerty said the key this time is not to put the plan on the shelf but to move right into updating the ordinances. The comprehensive plan acts as a guide and provides policy. The ordinances, based on the plan, provide the teeth of regulation and enforcement. Finnerty said she also wants to see more information available to the public online.
The goal is to have the county board adopt a comprehensive plan before year's end and to have ordinances updated in 2004.
People who attended the comprehensive plan update's kick-off meeting in October 2002 were asked what they wanted to see in the area's future. Then a half-dozen meetings were scheduled around the county to gain more input from residents.
Thursday night a resident asked whether the county could bring a zoning map to the session next time so they could look at the land use.
Finnerty said if the map was in a digital format that would be an easy task, but the map is on paper and filled out with colored pencil.
However, she said the proposed policy is to encourage the location of businesses in existing cities, growth corridors on highways and in areas served by municipal sewer and water.
In regard to land-use planning for housing developments, Finnerty provided a Power Point presentation showing several options to develop housing on tracts of land that preserve green space and cluster homes or preserve green space and limit density.
"There are a lot of options out there that we are just not tapping into right now," Finnerty said.
At the session, Finnerty reviewed demographic data, previewed policy proposals and updated those in attendance on comments collected at previous sessions.
The increase in population density was a major concern for a lot of people, Finnerty said. And there were the usual topics -- more livable wage jobs, increased cooperation between governmental units, concerns about urban sprawl.
At every meeting to date, residents said natural resources needed to be protected. Concerns were expressed about water quality and light pollution.
The main challenge to those goals came from growth -- meaning more people living in the lakes area driving the population from 55,000 to about 80,000 by 2020.
Finnerty said the growth, "which occurs faster than we can plan for it ... is why we are here today."
Other public concerns for the next decade included rising land values, increased crime and drugs, struggling small resorts, affordable housing, collaboration between cities and townships and an aging population. Public comments also pointed to an internal problem for the county as people felt fair and consistent application of county ordinances was needed.
A section on the role of county government is one of the chapters in the updated comprehensive plan.
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