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Paynesville Press - March 15, 2006

Design team mulling return visit to Paynesville

By Michael Jacobson

The Paynesville City Council held a special 90-minute meeting last week with representatives of the Minnesota Design Team. The city has applied for a repeat visit by the design team.

Rita Trapp, the current chair of the design team, said the visit was meant to be a dialogue between the design team and the city to make sure that a repeat visit would be mutually beneficial.

The design team is scheduled to act on their three pending applications at the end of the month. The screening visit is the second step in the application process.

Members of the ad hoc city committee that prepared Paynesville's application also attended the special city council meeting on Thursday.

Since its inception in 1983 - as the Governor's Design Team then - the Minnesota Design Team has made 90 visits and only three repeat visits, said Trapp. Two of them, however, to Houston and Redwood Falls, are scheduled for this year.

The Governor's Design Team, as it was called then, visited Paynesville in September 1990.

"We would really like to have the design team back, and not just because it was fun," said Mayor Jeff Thompson at the screening meeting last week. In 1990, he explained, the city faced different problems: primarily related to stagnation. Now, with annexations and developments planned, improvements to Highway 23 coming, etc., Paynesville faces different challenges, he said.

When the design team visited in 1990, they suggested a number of things, including: airport, community center, lake restoration, senior center and housing, downtown retailing, cultural activities, Star City designation, comprehensive planning, medical center, bed and breakfast, parks, and trails. Virtually all of these have been achieved to some extent.

The design team asked specific questions about the timeline for the Highway 23 project (construction slated for 2009), some of the new developments to the city, the city's relationship with the township, etc.

The local people told the design team members that Paynesville faced new challenges as a bedroom community.

Downtown business owner Bob McDaniel said there was some urgency to address these problems since the highway bypass is only a few years away. Paynesville needs to become a magnet or destination, he said. "Of course," he admitted, "that is easy to say and harder to do."

Later, Lance Louis, a partner in an industrial business in Paynesville, said that Paynesville needs to think about how it can be a successful bedroom community. "What kind of people can Paynesville attract to live here," he said. "Maybe one spouse will work in Paynesville, but the other will work 30 or 45 miles away."

Realtor Mary Janotta suggested adding a marketing person to the design team when it comes to Paynesville as Paynesville needs to think about how it will market itself. (The design team is not static, with different professionals making visits to different communities. Generally, it specializes in visual issues and always contains designers, landscapers, and architects, said Trapp, but a marketing person could be added for Paynesville.)

Trapp also asked the council and committee what groups in Paynes-ville might need to be reached out to. New residents, elderly, minorities, they suggested.

The design team was expected to make a decision about its fall 2006 visits later this month.

The ad hoc committee, however, agreed to suggest to the city council that Paynesville try and wait until the spring of 2007 for a return visit. This would enable a new city administrator to be more settled when the design team visits. It would also allow Paynesville to participate in a program with the Central Minnesota Initiative Foundation that would train community members before the design team comes (a visit requires substantial preparation), provide grants, and help in acquiring future grants to make suggested improvements.

Should the design team decide to make a return visit, their standard schedule involves meeting with local groups and touring the community on Friday with a community meeting on Friday night where community ideas and responses would be given to the design team. (The record of community participation is 450 in Rockford; at least 100 is expected.)

The design team members would stay with host families.

Then, on Saturday, the design team members would meet in seclusion before offering their ideas to the community at another public meeting on Saturday night.

Sunday would involve a send-off brunch for the design team, which would also make a follow-up visit to see how the community does in implementing its ideas.

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