More than three years after work began to update the city’s comprehensive plan, the Pequot Lakes City Council adopted that plan Tuesday, Feb. 5.
Council member Jerry Akerson cast the sole dissenting vote. The plan required at least four of five council members’ votes to be adopted.
That requirement blocked the plan’s passage in December 2011, when Akerson and former council member Tom Ryan voted against adoption. That action came after the council tabled a decision on the plan in June 2011 to give Akerson and Ryan time to bring concerns to the planning commission.
The council now includes newcomers Scott Pederson, who worked on the plan as a former Planning and Zoning Commission member, and Tyler Gardner. Ryan didn’t win re-election in November.
Pederson and Gardner voted for the plan Feb. 5, along with council member Dave Sjoblad and mayor Nancy Adams, both of whom also voted for passage in 2011.
After the meeting, Akerson said he is on board with a lot of what’s in the comprehensive plan and will move forward with it. However, he said concerns he and Ryan raised were never really addressed. He said new ordinances are derived from the comprehensive plan, and he said some ordinances are too restrictive, particularly the city’s fence and sign ordinances.
Also, Akerson said, the new plan prohibits commercial growth along the future Highway 371 bypass route, which he said isn’t fair to landowners who may want to negotiate for that for their property.
The process to craft an updated comprehensive plan began in 2009. The previous plan, adopted in 2004 after the city and Sibley Township merged in 2002, dealt with environmental, natural resources and lake development issues, city planner Chuck Marohn of Community Growth Institute told the council. That plan was light on urban development.
The city started updating codes, and several big events occurred in the ensuing years, Marohn said, including the decision to expand Highway 371 to four lanes around, rather than through, downtown.
The new comp plan is an update to bring the city to a new reality and economy, Marohn said. That reality includes long-term infrastructure liabilities, zoning standards, and other long-term impacts on growth and development.
The new comp plan has three principles for a healthy economy: reduce the long-term tax burden; streamline the regulatory process; and continue to grow the city’s market for goods and services.
Marohn explained that a comprehensive plan is a guiding document.
“They are meant to be advisory. They’re meant to guide policy. They don’t carry the force of law. It’s a pathway to the future,” Marohn said, noting the comp plan contains nothing that is binding. “It intelligently lays out steps we agree we should be taking.”
Besides Marohn’s presentation, there was little discussion by the council.
In January, the council agreed to submit any questions regarding the comprehensive plan to staff in time to have the answers before the Feb. 5 meeting. Dawn Bittner, planning and zoning administrator, said only Gardner called with a question that she was able to answer.
The plan can be found online at http://www.pequotlakes-mn.gov on the planning and zoning page.