By Ivan Raconteur
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN Lester Prairie is poised to take the next step in planning for the future.
The city’s planning and zoning commission will conduct a public hearing at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 5 at city hall to discuss and listen to public comments regarding proposed revisions to the city’s comprehensive plan.
The draft plan is available by clicking the featured link at www.herald-journal.com.
Lester Prairie Community Development Director Adam Birkholz said he’d like to see “a room full of people” at the hearing, because the city wants input from its residents regarding the plan.
What is a comprehensive plan?
Lester Prairie Community Development Director Adam Birkholz said a comprehensive plan (often called a comp plan) is a document used by the city council, staff, and commissions to give direction when making policy decisions and recommendations.
A comprehensive plan is the result of a process during which a community’s goals and priorities are identified.
Birkholz said it is recommended a city’s comprehensive plan be updated every 10 years. The last time Lester Prairie’s comp plan was updated was 2006, so it was due for review.
Among the highlights of the revised plan, according to Birkholz, are a focus on “sustainable, smart growth,” influenced by economic development, and a commitment to keeping Lester Prairie a “kid friendly” community.
He said the plan addresses residential growth for all life stages, from starter homes to senior housing.
The plan also includes commercial and industrial development.
“We want to plan for that growth we want to be ready,” Birkholz said.
One thing Birkholz said is unique about Lester Prairie’s comp plan is that it specifically incorporates working with the Lester Prairie School District. This, combined with the city’s parks, trails, sidewalks, and other amenities, help make the city a great place to raise a family, according to Birkholz.
Residential and commercial development go hand-in-hand, he noted.
Keeping young families in the city is important because it helps provide a workforce, which local businesses need.
The objectives in the plan include planning for large expenses to minimize the impact on residents.
For example, Birkholz said the city is working on a pavement management plan to evaluate the current condition of the city’s streets and plan for future maintenance needs.
Planning infrastructure needs is part of preparing for future growth, Birkholz noted.
Developing a trunk sanitary sewer plan is one of the ways the plan will help to accomplish this.
In Lester Prairie, the process for updating the comprehensive plan began with the appointment of a task force.
The group, which met for the first time in March 2016, was composed of 10 members who represented a cross-section of the community, including men, women, and people of different ages. It also included representatives from Bergen and Winsted townships, which border the city.
Birkholz and Matthew Johnson of Mid-Minnesota Development Commission, a consultant hired by the city, participated in the process, as well.
Members of the task force included:
• Eric Angvall, mayor of Lester Prairie;
• Troy Feltmann, park board member and Lester Prairie Business Association president;
• Fred Blaser, planning and zoning commission chairman;
• Jeremy Schmidt, Lester Prairie School superintendent;
• Brooke Weise, finance officer, First Community Bank, Lester Prairie;
• Jennifer Ross, local business owner;
• Don Artmann, local business owner;
• Ralph Machemehl, retired business owner, Legion and Lions Club member;
• Francis Burch, Bergen Township supervisor;
• Nathan Schmaltz, Winsted Township supervisor
The committee met several times from 2016 to 2017.
The city then conducted a public meeting to present the preliminary revised comp plan and gather more input from the public.
The proposed plan has been updated, and residents will have another opportunity to ask questions and provide input during the public hearing Sept. 5.
The final step will be consideration and approval of the revised comprehensive plan by the city council.
Lester Prairie’s proposed comprehensive plan includes information about the city and surrounding area.
It also includes goals, objectives, and policies divided into seven chapters, including:
• economic development and downtown revitalization;
• transportation and trails;
• natural resources, parks, and open space;
• residential and housing development;
• land use, public facilities, and infrastructure;
• school district; and
• community engagement.
Each chapter is broken down into objectives and policies intended to help the city achieve those objectives.