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Council to pursue 31 planning and zoning changes advised by county

The Crosslake City Council decided Thursday night, June 27, that members of the council, along with consulting city administrator Dan Vogt and city attorney Brad Person, will “meet with the county and start exploring implementation processes” for all 31 of the county’s recommendations for the city’s planning and zoning department.

The council requested in January that Crow Wing County Land Services conduct an assessment of the city’s planning and zoning department. Land services supervisor Chris Pence conducted the assessment and submitted a report to the council detailing the 31 recommendations the council will now pursue.

The decision was not unanimous and met some resistance by the audience at the meeting. Perhaps the most controversial part of the meeting was the council’s plan not to include city planning and zoning staff in the conversations with the county.

This was the third meeting in which the council addressed the county’s report. Council member Mark Wessels advocated strongly for the county’s recommendations.

Other council members were concerned that the council needed to make more of a plan before deciding to implement the recommendations.

Wessels argued that the council had two plans: the city’s comprehensive plan and the planning and zoning assessment.

Council member Steve Roe said, “We promised the attendees at the last meeting we would not move forward without communicating with them, so my vote is no.”

Community development director and P&Z staff member Ken Anderson reminded the council of the decision passed in a vote at its last meeting on planning and zoning, which was Tuesday, June 11.

That decision was “to direct the city council to not make a final decision regarding action on the Crosslake Planning and Zoning Department Assessment conducted by Crow Wing County Land Services. To direct the city council to outline a proposal regarding changes to the planning and zoning department and to bring the proposal to the public at a future meeting.”

Anderson disagreed with the council’s exclusion of the city’s planning and zoning staff in the discussion with the county.

“To set up a meeting ... and not even include anybody from the department in those discussions with the land services department, I think that’s appalling. And I think you’re shutting off an important part of this process,” Anderson said.

Wessels then restated his motion for clarification, including who would be involved in the meetings: the city administrator (Vogt), attorney (Person) and two council members.

When Roe suggested Wessels add a planning and zoning staff member to the group involved in county discussion, Wessels said, “I’m going to leave my motion as it is.”

Council member John Moengen questioned whether planning and zoning staff would want to be involved in the conversation with the county, saying there was an elephant in the room.

“The elephant in the room is we’re (potentially) going to have the county come in and take over planning and zoning and reduce staff. So I guess the question I would have at that point ... is Ken (Anderson) interested in being a part of this discussion knowing that there might be evidence or reason why we might make changes to planning and zoning that would affect the positions there?”

Anderson said he believed the meetings with the county needed someone from the city’s planning and zoning with more information and “boots on the ground.”

“Absolutely I want to be involved,” he said.

However, the motion passed as Wessels stated it, deciding that the city meet with the county to implement the recommendations laid out in the county’s planning and zoning assessment without the attendance of city planning and zoning staff. The motion passed 3-2, with council members Roe and Moengen voting against it. Wessels, council member Gary Heacox and mayor Darrell Schneider voted in favor.

The council decided in another 3-2 vote that Wessels and Heacox would be the two council members involved in the meetings, because Heacox is the planning and zoning council liaison. Roe and Moengen voted against that decision as well.

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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