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Paynesville Press - Jan. 29, 2003

Comprehensive plan approved by city council

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

After eight months of work by planners and members of the community, the city council adopted a new comprehensive plan for the city on Wednesday, Jan. 22.

According to city officials, the comprehensive plan is a blueprint for the city's future development. Using information regarding the city's demographics, geography, past and present land use, and the city's strengths and weaknesses, planners created a plan for managed growth.

The price tag for the plan was $25,000. Paynesville Township paid $2,000 toward the plan and the city received grants to cover part of the cost.

The city's previous comprehensive plan was over 20 years old when officials hired a consulting firm to create a new one in April 2001. In May, a kick-off meeting was held during which community members made a list of what they thought were Paynesville's strengths and weaknesses and listed what they felt the city's goals should be.

Using this information, planners created a document that outlines a plan for reaching the city's goals regarding transportation, housing, economic development, and land use.

Because the city is situated along three highways, it is in a prime area for growth, according to the plan, and improvements to Highway 23 likely will bring even more growth. Access to highways may also help lure new businesses to the area, but these businesses may find a shortage of employees because of the lack of affordable housing, so housing issues need to be addressed along with economic development.

Not only does the city need to address the housing needs of young families, according to the plan, the median age of area residents is 49 years, meaning the population of Paynesville is aging and there will be a need for more assisted-living and skilled nursing facilities in the future.

The plan includes a future land use map that created some controversy at a public hearing held earlier this month. Some residents were concerned about how and when land marked for development outside of the city limits (in Paynesville Township) was going to be annexed.

In response, city officials have stressed that their desire is to allow landowners to continue to initiate annexation, that the plan looks 20 years into the future, and that not all of this land necessarily will be annexed.

Now that the plan is complete, city officials should refer to it before making decisions about zoning and development. The plan should also be reviewed periodically and updated, for instance when the future route of Highway 23 is decided.

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