Well, if you’ve been hanging around us for any length of time at all, you know that we are a little critical of the procedure for creating and approving comprehensive plans in metropolitan Minnesota. I probably haven’t given my full viewpoint enough publicity, but believe it or not, I’m not against comprehensive plans in theory. I am a planner. I believe that without a well-formulated plan, you have no idea where you are going. If you have no idea where you are headed, you will end up somewhere you don’t want to be. A detailed comprehensive plan can define and preserve the character of your community. It can help your city to run smoothly and prepare for emergencies.
That’s not what we’re talking about here. In the metro area, the Metropolitan Council creates a massive regional planning document that includes land use, housing, transportation, water, and parks. The latest Met Council concoction of faulty forecasting and trendy buzzwords has been dubbed “Thrive MSP 2040”. It boasts “One Vision, One Metropolitan Region”. Sounds warm and cozy, doesn’t it? All of the aspects of the plan must reflect the five outcomes: Stewardship, Prosperity, Equity, Livability, and Sustainability. We will get into more of the details of this plan in future blogs. Today, however, I just want you to understand that it exists. It exists, and drives all of the decisions made in your community.
The Met Council has the authority to force Cities to write and submit a new comprehensive plan every ten years. The city must write its comp plan in conjunction with the standards outlined in the regional plan. If it does not, the Met Council can ask them to go back to the drawing board and resubmit. The Met Council can continue to do this as it sees fit, impose fines, or exact other heavy-handed measures. The ability of a City to actually do what is in their best interest has been greatly limited.
So no matter if you live in Minneapolis, Minnetonka, or Marine on St. Croix, your city is slotted for increased rental units (including affordable housing), transit accessibility, an interconnected park system, mixed use development, reduced lot sizes of new developments, and other regional planning darlings to fit their consistently poor population forecasts, no matter if it fits into the character of your city or not.
So, what can we do? Ideally, a wave of Thrive MSP 2040 opponents would have been elected to city councils back in November. I’m not certain that happened. These comp plans will be written this year, and completed in 2018. Some elections will happen this year, so get on that, you cities that have odd year elections! In every city, we need to fill every open seat on every planning commission. All anyone (and I mean anyone can do this) needs to do is to go down to city hall and fill out an application. You go interview in front of the council, and they pick the best one (don’t say anything too crazy). The planning commission advises the city council on the comp plan. That’s why it is important to get those spots. A single city has little hope of standing up to the Met Council, but a group of them standing together has a much better chance.
So, there you go. It may not be an election year for most of us, but there is still something worthy to fight for. Let us know how we can help you.
Jason Bradley is an entrepreneur in the music industry (Jason Bradley Live and Paper Lanterns Intl) and owns a consulting/advocacy/education firm that specializes in non-partisan politics (Community Solutions MN). Jason Bradley helps others to reach their goals in music and reduce the size and influence of government.