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Crosslake council to have county assess city's planning, zoning

The Crosslake City Council voted in favor of having Crow Wing County Land Services conduct an assessment of the city’s Planning and Zoning Department during a special meeting Thursday morning, Jan. 31.

The measure was spearheaded by council member Mark Wessels, who said the county would provide the assessment free of charge.

In a memo to the council, Wessels said the county would spend approximately two to three months evaluating Crosslake planning and zoning’s systems, processes and employee performance.

Wessels wrote a resolution that was provided to the council, which he read and argued for adamantly. Staff provided the council a response to Wessels’ resolution, which raised points of discussion over the resolution and assessment in general. Wessels called the response a criticism of his resolution.

Ken Anderson, community development director for Crosslake, said he welcomes collaboration between Crosslake and the county.

“I think what this memo (from staff) is intended to do is to clarify and characterize the misinformation in some of the information that council member Wessels put together,” Anderson said.

The council plans to meet with county staff before beginning the assessment to learn details on how the county would make assessments and develop a timeline.

Chris Pence, Crow Wing County Land Services supervisor, confirmed in a phone interview that the county will perform the assessment at no charge, pending county board approval. The county board will most likely address the matter at its Feb. 26 meeting.

Pence said the assessment would include some time spent at city hall, to “talk to staff, watch, observe and listen.” Pence believed a county staff member would spend a day a week at city hall.

He said time would also be spent away from city hall looking at documents. The county will review process, procedure and customer service.

When the review is complete, the county will put together a report for the council with recommendations, Pence said.

He said that currently, the county partners with the city of Breezy Point, conducting permitting and inspecting of septic tanks. The county also partners with Jenkins, with a satellite office open one day a week. In both instances, the county does not charge the city but receives revenue from the permits it sells.

When asked if this sort of arrangement would be sought with Crosslake, Pence said, “If they’re interested, I would say anything’s a possibility. At this point there hasn’t been anything brought to the (county) board requesting them to provide services.”

A position was recently vacated in the city planning and zoning department, as planner/zoning coordinator Edy Asell resigned effective Jan. 25. The council made no decision whether to advertise for that position, opting to see the results of the county’s assessment before making a decision.