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Crosslake Planning and Zoning assessment report presented

Crow Wing County Land Services Supervisor Chris Pence presented his assessment report of Crosslake Planning and Zoning (PZ) to the Crosslake City Council Wednesday, May 29.

Included in Pence’s report are 31 recommendations for changes the council he believes the council ought to make to improve the PZ department.

He explained his assessment methodology to the council, saying he was looking for ways both the county and the city could improve.

Pence sent out 216 survey cards, and received 77 back. Overall, the Crosslake PZ department had a 79-86 percent approval rating across four categories. Pence offered, by comparison, that the county land services department had 98-99 percent approval rating across the same categories.

In addition to sending survey cards, Pence compiled comments from the city council, PZ commission, PZ staff, general citizens, the business community, realtors, septic contractors, builders, and the Whitefish Area Property Owners’ Association. In total, Pence said he contacted 75 people for interviews.

Pence spent one day a week working on the assessment. He said there was a misconception that he would be observing staff. He said he did not attend any PZ meetings in Crosslake, but talked to members.

Pence said that much of the feedback he received “basically came down to a lack of consistency.” Pence said that people were told they needed one thing for an application, and then later told they needed more.

There was also concern about ordinances and how they’re being enforced with reference to consistency, Pence said. He said one complaint included lack of consistency in the city council.

“I would encourage and remind the council that leadership from a staff level starts with elected officials,” Pence said.

He also stressed the importance of customer service. Pence said people coming into city hall need to be seen as customers, and that they need to be “treated well with respect and dignity.”

Pence said another clear message he got in feedback was that people need to know there’s going to be an enforcement process for ordinances. He said he was pleased to find that people wanted the ordinances to be followed, and went on to say that people told him that if the ordinance wasn’t going to be enforced, it should be changed.

Pence said most people felt the city’s ordinance needed to be revised in some manner, and he felt there were a lot of redundancies in the ordinances.

Pence’s recommendations included: that staff shall obtain a 90 percent approval rating; that the city council should explore options with Crow Wing County to collaborate on a coordinated land use program; that the department develop fact sheets and checklists to summarize key points of the ordinance to make it easier to understand requirements; several recommendations on how to improve on the issue of enforcement cases; multiple recommendations on how to improve the city’s ordinances; and many more recommendations.

The council decided to hold a public hearing on the PZ assessment on Tuesday, June 11 at 6 p.m. at the community center. The council chose to hold the meeting at the community center so that there will be adequate room for the public to attend.