City of St. Cloud officials came together last Wednesday night at City Hall, looking for feedback on the Comprehensive Plan that’s expected to be finalized and adopted Feb. 4.
Around 6 p.m., citizens of St. Cloud and the surrounding area, along with advocates and affiliates of local organizations, took their seats in the Council Chambers. Mayor Dave Kleis introduced the meeting, explaining that the majority of the time would be for people to give feedback on the city’s plan.
“If there are things you like or don’t like, this is your input session,” Mayor Kleis said. Taking in the feedback, online or at the meeting, he said they’ll work to include the recommendations into the plan’s blue prints.
Now 155 pages long, the plan was first introduced in 2003. Mayor Kleis said the idea is to look at the future of the city 15 to 20 years out. Since the beginning, the city hosted a number of sessions to give people a chance to give their input, while also bringing plans to local businesses and hosting online platforms for feedback too.
As feedback comes in, the city has been working with outside consultants, Kleis said, who helped come up with the documentation for the Comprehensive Plan. More information about the plan can be found here: http://www.stcloudplan.com/.
Following the introduction, Community Development Director Matt Glaesman gave a brief presentation, running through an overview of how the plan is mapping out.
“What’s unique about St. Cloud that we can build upon it,” he said. Over the last year and a half, the city has been collecting feedback. The last three months have been about refining the plan before heading toward the final steps.
Glaesman began by explaining that the city has implemented investments to the St. Cloud area ranging from $500,000 to $40 million in the last 10 years to help project the city toward the future.
“We need to make sure we’re being good stewards,” he said. Looking at growth and making a viable community, he said they’re looking at improvements from various angles.
Looking at the slides overhead, the plan covered numerous areas of St. Cloud, starting with how people enter the city, including the St. Cloud exits from Interstate 94, and then continued on with what attracts people to cities. He brought up incorporating public art and modern building designs, then moved onto working with area businesses, and connecting public parks and trails—like the Beaver Island Trail.
What seemed to catch people’s attention was transportation. He brought in a “complete streets” idea, where the city is looking for ways to limit traffic congestion, making for easier movement throughout the city. The idea would reach more than those driving their personal cars to and from work. He said it would include other means of transportation too, like bicycling.
After a brief introduction and background on the planning process and current development of the city, the council opened up the meeting for citizens to speak about their thoughts on the plan.
People lined up between the seating, waiting for their turn at the podium. Some people voiced their concerns about potential building zoning, specifically on whether certain buildings would be overshadowed by the proposed structures, while others representing various local organizations voiced their concern around possible impact to natural areas, calling for long-term preservation to environmentally sensitive areas, access to businesses and zoning.
Transportation and affordable housing were brought to the podium by a number of St. Cloud citizens, including Judy Foster, a former English professor at St. Cloud State. Foster expressed her concern around homelessness and affordable housing in St. Cloud, proposing the city add a resource center for people who are homeless.
“I would like to plea that such a resource center should be included into such a plan,” Foster said, describing the ideal center as having services available to help people who are homeless find housing and employment. “I think it could improve and hopefully decrease homelessness in our community.”
Continuing with the hearing, a few members with the non-profit organization GRIP/ISAIAH advocated for the extension of the Northstar rail to St. Cloud from Big Lake. Members of the group argued the extension would make St. Cloud more accessible and bring more money into the city.
Director of Hands Across the World Brianda Cediel came to the podium representing GRIP/ISAIAH, echoing the message of bringing the Northstar rail to St. Cloud
“It would help bring access to jobs,” she said, arguing that opening up this method of transportation could grant people more opportunities in their job search.
The hearings ended with 45 minutes left in the session. The remaining amount of time was set aside for people to meet one-on-one with city officials to discuss the plans on an informal basis.
“I was very pleased by the comments,” Mayor Kleis said. “There are a lot of opportunities to share thoughts, even after the plan is adopted…changes could be made.”
Between transportation and mobility, and land use, Kleis said the plan is a “living document,” explaining that while the idea stretches into the future, it’s not necessarily set in stone.
After a year and a half of planning and putting pen to paper, Kleis said that the feedback given at Wednesday night’s meeting would be taken into account and worked into the plan. City officials will come together again, expecting to adopt the plan Feb. 4.