Our View: Comp plan is a good start for 'evolving' process
It’s been 43 years since Rochester last approved a comprehensive plan for the city’s growth, and it seems like the rewrites on the new one have gone on for at least that.
But the long process is over and the Rochester City Council voted 7-0 Monday to approve the plan, called "Planning 2 Succeed: Rochester Comprehensive Plan 2040," or as planning fans call it, "P2S 2040."
Frankly, with all the rewrites, couldn’t we have avoided the trendy numeral "2" in the title? That’ll seem dated by about 2020.
Though it’s a document that few will read and even fewer will read in 2020 or 2030, it’s an important manifesto for how the city’s growth should be guided over the next two decades. As the executive summary says, it "reflects and responds to demographic and economic trends, economic development objectives, and community values," and is the result of extensive community input, including during the final months of discussion at the City Council.
It’s the "community values" that generated disagreements at the council level. Critics would say it involves too much social engineering and has an agenda that goes beyond being a blueprint for growth. Others would say it’s not aspirational enough and that guiding growth necessarily involves plans for transit, housing, health issues and yes, bike lanes.
In the end, with a unanimous vote, it’s reasonable to say that consensus was reached and all parties are more or less OK with the document.
Now comes the hard part: keeping this "OK" document from gathering dust.
Projects of this kind have many authors and many who deserve credit. Council Member Michael Wojcik is near the top of the list; he has championed a new plan for years, and though he engaged in more than his typical share of grandstanding, he deserves credit for pushing it ahead.
His comment about it on Facebook: "It’s complete, not perfect, but not bad."
The Rochester-Olmsted Planning Department prepared the document, and principal planner Sandra Goslee had the patience of a saint, especially during the last three months of minor rewrites. Charlie Reiter and others in the department earned pats on the back, and Mitzi Baker, the city-county planning director, earned respect and appreciation for her work. Baker has been on administrative leave since mid-March.
Though Wojcik and allies have directed their ire toward Council President Randy Staver and Council Members Ed Hruska and Mark Hickey for not moving faster on it and quibbling over details, Staver is surely correct when he calls it an "evolving" document.
In fact, if the plan has any value at all, it will be proven by current and future council actions that embrace its vision and act as if that vision matters. That will take consensus-building and compromise, not finger-pointing and showboating.
"Planning 2 Succeed" is just a starting point. Let’s get to work on the success part.
These are the key goals and excerpts of policies from the "Planning 2 Succeed: Rochester Comprehensive Plan 2040" document approved by the Rochester City Council Monday.
The document is online at http://www.rochestermn.gov/departments/planning-and-zoning/ .
Growth Strategy:"Delineates an area where future city growth is designated to be accommmodated on urban services over a 25-year planning horizon."
Integration of Land Use and Transportation Policy:Among other policies, it "encourages the development of mixed-use transit-oriented centers and corridors that integrate walkable residential, employment and commercial development at densities that can support high-frequency enhanced transit service."
Fiscal Sustainability:The plan "encourages the city to more effectively grow its property tax base and increase tax revenues by fostering infill, redevelopment and edge growth in areas already proximate to existing services..."
Land Use Form and Character:"Encourages the development of neighborhoods, business and other community districts, streets and public spaces that are visually attractive, safe, accessible and inclusive."
Multi-Modal Transportation Network:"Supports development of a transportation system that can accommodate the needs of people with varying economic means and abilities including youth, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
Adequate and Affordable Housing:"Provides support for zoning policy that provides opportunity for developers to build a variety of housing types."
Environment and Health:The plan encourages "the development of an interconnected green network of parks, paths and trails."