County present comprehensive plan; wants input

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 3/24/98.

An informal open house was held Wednesday, March 18, at the Paynesville Area Senior Center to present material that has been developed during the process of updating the Stearns County Comprehensive plan.

Information was displayed from three areas of the study: land use, transportation, and natural resources.

SRF Consulting Group, Minneapolis, conducted the study for Stearns County.

SRF met with local units of government across Stearns County to get an idea of what they considered were the transportation problems, growth areas, water quality issues and more. The Stearns County Comprehensive Plan should be complete by June of 1998 and will be implemented over a 20-year period.

On one map displayed at the open house all the deficient and narrow bridges were identified. Also marked on the map were substandard curves, poor visibility areas, snow traps and roads that were considered to have insufficient weight capacity.

Another map identified the future functions of the roadways in Stearns County. The map designated which roads were owned by the state, county and township.

Stearns County has 160 miles of principal arterial roadways (Highways 23 and 15). The study recommends adding seven more miles to this system. The study showed there are 131 miles of minor arterial roads (Highways 55 and 22) and 417 miles of major collector roads (Highways 4 and 12)

SRF is recommending subtracting 112 miles from the state road system and adding them to the county or township road system. Included in the recommendation is that Highway 4 from I-94 to Highway 55 and Highway 22 from Richmond to Eden Valley be switched from state highways to a county highways.

Montebello said in making the recommendations they looked at the spacing of the routes on the map from other major roadways, the distance between towns, length of roadways, jogs in the roadway and more.

Peters addressed the land use portion of the study. ďWe explored future land use through the year 2020,Ē he said. ďWe drove a lot of roads, looked at aerial maps of the county, which showed feed lots and the wetlands to try to get an accurate picture of the county make-up.Ē

SRF checked the data base of the Pollution Control Agency for existing feed lots and with the National Wetlands Inventory for the number of lakes, rivers and wetlands in the county.

ďWe explored land use conflicts in lake areas with rural neighborhoods and nonfarm residences in the county,Ē Peters said. ďStearns County wants to respect the townships vision they have for their respective areas.Ē

Peters added the county is giving preservation of agriculture top priority. ďAgriculture is the number one industry in Stearns County and that needs to be protected,Ē he said.

When looking at future growth, Peters said growth needs to occur where there are already utilities, adequate transportation, sanitary systems and schools. ďA way to implant growth plans is through zoning,Ē he stressed. ďThe county is exploring county wide zoning as part of the study.Ē

Peters said zoning would help protect prime agriculture land, wetlands and areas sensitive to the environment.

As part of the study, SRF is recommending buffer stripes around lakes and rivers consisting of grasses or trees. The widths would vary with the soil types and land use of the area.

The study also highly recommends utilizing abandoned railroad beds for trails. Where this isnít possible, the county will upgrade existing roadways with wider shoulders to accommodate the trails.

Comprehensive Plan

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