BACKUS - Brainerd Lakes Chamber representatives last week outlined for Cass and Crow Wing County officials some of their findings so far on the Intelligent Growth long range planning process for southern Cass and Crow Wing counties.
The two counties share 70 miles of contiguous border. That includes shorelines.
Lisa Paxton, chamber chief executive officer, reported Cass County's population is projected to grow by 66 percent and Crow Wing's by 63 percent in the next 23 years. This does not count the influx of tourists who double the population in the summer.
The area's recent designation as a "micropolitan" ranks the area around Brainerd as 28th of the 100 fastest growing non-metropolitan areas in the country. The region also has a higher aging population than most in the state. It is expected 65 percent of the people in this region will be age 55 or older.
This is expected to mean a shortage of younger people to work in such jobs as volunteer firefighter.
The study found that 40 percent of everyone who lives in Cass County and is employed actually works in Crow Wing County, further interconnecting the two counties.
Paxton said the chamber hopes local units of government will use their long range plan as a guide for developing local ordinances.
Bruce Buxton said the plan recommends planning and constructing infrastructure to support the anticipated population growth, while also protecting the natural resources, providing recreation and making the economy attractive. Access to roads will determine where development will go, he said.
Roads, sewers, water and trails will all cost more if they do not work their way out from existing infrastructure, he noted. As population grows services also will have to increase to match needs.
The study found there are 25 acres of public land per population in Cass County, but only one-fourth acre of public land per population in Crow Wing. Commissioner Jim Demgen noted a lot of Crow Wing County residents use the recreational land and parks in Cass County. Planning is under way for interconnected recreational trails crossing county lines. Crow Wing County Commissioner Paul Thiede asked rhetorically what the ideal amount of public land per population should be.
Land needs to be set aside for solid waste and wastewater disposal in the future, the plan suggests. Paxton noted a Cass-Crow Wing water management grant is being sought. Law enforcement communication systems need to be compatible among neighboring counties.
Rod Osterloh said there also should be a common language and set of definitions in zoning ordinances in the neighboring counties.
Buxton said the large number of people expected to move here the next 20 years will expect there to be a building code in place. He said the counties should take the lead on this. He noted he found after he had bought a house that there were no headers over his windows and doors. A building code would not allow that, he noted.
Paxton suggested Cass and Crow Wing commissioners schedule a follow-up meeting in January to discuss further ways they can cooperatively address the growth issues.
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