Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Jan. 31, 2000

LP continues to develop comprehensive plan

By Luis Puga

In a special meeting last Monday, the Lester Prairie City Council met with the Lester Prairie Planning and Zoning Commission to discuss the next step in the city's comprehensive plan.

Along with the two bodies, members from the Lester Prairie School Board, Winsted and Bergen Township boards, and many community members were present for the meeting.

Matt Johnson from the Mid-Minnesota Development Commission, who has been hired to draft the comprehensive plan for the city, said he was encouraged by the turnout.

The next phase in the plan was to discuss 11 goals set by the state in the 1997 Community Based Planning Act.

Johnson noted that individuals are often apprehensive about the 11 goals, as they often feel that they are being told what to do from the state, he explained.

However, Johnson noted that the goals are really recommendations of areas that a comprehensive plan should address. They are areas which the state has often found to be overlooked.

Of the 11, Johnson said some are not very controversial or require much discussion during the meeting. Suggestions such as increasing citizen participation or intergovernmental cooperation were seen as good elements of the plan in the meeting Monday.

Other goals, such as natural resource conservation, received input from the crowd.

Of concern was the Crow River and that, as development grows within the city, the water quality be protected. Also, some citizens felt that housing should not abut the river, but preferred green or park spaces instead.

Housing was another area discusse. There was a recognized need for more housing, but there were some questions as to where and how much housing should be built.

Johnson said that identifying these areas was a large task and that the city would need to follow a good land use strategy to grow well.

Other issues discussed for the evening included the expansion of the wastewater treatment facility, the promotion of downtown businesses, the need for green and park spaces in general, the development of an industrial park, and the need for promotional brochures for the city.

Another discussion centered around the school district, and its future planning.

Johnson admitted that the comprehensive plan will not solve the issue, but will highlight it as a concern for the future.

In a hypothetical example, if the school were to be expanded in its current location, some residential housing might need to be relocated. Johnson said such issues would be addressed in the comprehensive plan.

Johnson felt that the overall meeting was very productive. This opinion was also voiced by Supt. James Redfield of the Lester Prairie school district, who was impressed with the meeting's turnout.

Redfield said that the district will continue to be interested in the comprehensive plan process. He added that he felt the plan was needed and would like to see all groups work together on the plan.

The next step will be to draft outlines for the goals, objectives and policy section of the plan. As usual, Johnson said the public is encouraged to come to the planning and zoning commission meetings, which are every third Monday of the month.

After the outlines are completed, Johnson said the city's largest task will be to complete a future land use plan ­ a map which will outline types of zones, such as residential or commercial.

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