1/21/2022 1:39:00 PM Chisago City enacts new Comprehensive Plan; revises shoreland rules
by LEILANI FREEMAN
The Chisago City Council approved two documents January 11 that will guide growth and development in the city for years to come.
One was the city’s new Comprehensive Plan, which has been in development with the help of consultants Bolton & Menk and City Engineer Ryan Davenport. It replaces the Comprehensive Development Plan created in 2006. The other significant document revises shoreland zoning rules which the city completed as a result of legal action brought by the MN Attorney General on behalf of the Department of Natural Resources.
Comprehensive Plan Associate City Planner Leah Nelson reminded the council that the public was given an opportunity to review the draft Comprehensive Plan at a Sept 15 open house in Moberg Park. The plan was then scheduled to be reviewed by the city planning commission in November, but the planning commission was unable to take further action due to lack of a quorum at its meetings in November and December. Discussion by the planning commission had focused on proposed high density areas and extension of sewer lines down Highway 8.
Nelson reported that planning commission member Roger Trivette expressed concern that the proposed high density areas north and south of the highway might cause a decrease in the city’s appeal. City Administrator John Pechman had told the Commission that downtowns generally have higher densities because it’s beneficial to local businesses. It was also pointed out that commercial service, industrial, and high density residential areas in the plan are focused around current and future intersections on Highway 8, and that sewer is proposed to be extended along Highway 8 to service the city’s economic growth.
The planning commission voted unanimously to approve the Comprehensive Plan, which was forwarded to the city council for its approval. In summarizing the Comprehensive Plan on Jan.11, Harry Davis of Bolton & Menk said that the Comprehensive Plan is a policy document and a tool for guiding growth, redevelopment and development in the future. It also provides the basis for the city’s zoning, subdivision and other regulations and serves as a working guide for the planning commission and the city council in making future decisions.
Chisago City’s new Comprehensive Plan addresses: transportation, economy and employment, housing and neighborhoods, parks and trails, land use, natural resources and public utilities, and includes guide for implementation.
Davis said that in drafting the new plan, “We identified areas for future growth, making the new plan more current with where growth is trending.
“Highway 8 is the centerpiece of transportation,” said Davis. “We are anticipating expanding the road network to provide a parallel path along Highway 8.”
He added goals include “improving downtown and industrial areas, providing more attractions for visitors and more goods and services for residents of the city.”
Davis pointed out that Chisago City already has a high percentage of parkland available, and the plan strives to make sure that there is “connectivity and accessibility between parks and trails.”
But what is most important, Davis said, is the implementation chapter. “How do you make the goals happen? We’ve provided tables for each of the topics and how to help achieve the goals within each topic.”
The council then voted unanimously to approve the new Comprehensive Plan. The public may view the entire document on the city’s website https://www.ci.chisago.mn.us. (When pulling up the plan online, be patient as it takes a while for the document to load.) Shoreland Rules
The council’s Jan. 11 vote to approve revised shoreland rules brings the city’s shoreland regulations into compliance with stipulations by the Department of Natural Resources. The DNR initiated legal action after the city approved docks and boat slips at Green Lake Villas, a Planned Unit Development (PUD) on the former Lakeside Elementary School site. The DNR contended that the docks violated DNR shoreland regulations. A settlement was reached in which the city agreed to revise its shoreland rules according to the DNR.
Administrator Pechman said that city staff worked closely with the DNR’s land use planner throughout the revision process.
“In the end, we were able to come to an agreement,” said Pechman. “One of the last concerns was that our ordinances currently allow people who have a nonconforming use (in a shoreland area) to proceed if their project meets our setback requirements for front and side yard and impervious surface. We’ve done this for years.
“The DNR took exception to that and wanted every one of these projects to go through a formal variance process.”
“We did have some back and forth discussion (with the DNR) regarding impervious surface,” Pechman told the council.
“In a shoreland area, the DNR requires impervious surface of no more than 25 percent,” he said, “There is no industrial or commercial business in our downtown area that would agree to a 75 percent green space requirement. “We settled on no more than 70 percent impervious surface for industrial and commercial businesses in shoreland areas.” Pechman indicated that is consistent with current city policy. The council then voted unanimously to approved the revised Shoreland Rules as presented.