RED WING – More than a year in the making, the Goodhue County Board of Commissioners adopted a new comprehensive plan Tuesday at the county board meeting.
The new plan, the first major update since the last plan was enacted in 2004, speaks to several topics that were not envisioned in the last version or given little direction.
“The last comprehensive plan had one sentence saying, ‘We encourage wind energy,'” said Goodhue County Land Use Management Director Lisa Hanni. “We did not anticipate the scale of it.”
“The biggest thing is updating us to the 2016-year world,” said Commissioner Dan Rechtzigel. Goodhue County is still dominated by agriculture, he said but the nature of that agriculture is changing. “It used to be cows, pigs and soy beans. Now we’re getting vineyards and apple orchards and organic vegetables.”
From a comprehensive plan standpoint, that means those small farmers who raise crops, put up a sign at the end of their driveway and invite the public in to buy food are welcome to do so. That was not the case under the 2004 plan, Rechtzigel said. “The old comprehensive plan didn’t address that,” he said. “People started doing, and then we’d find out about it. But we didn’t want to shut it down.”
The plan, passed unanimously, came after a year of meetings, input from planning and land use management, public hearings and a survey of county residents, Hanni said. All that data was used to guide the process.
For example, the survey, which logged 72 full responses, most coming from the townships, saw county-wide support for agriculture including a more open acceptance of non-traditional agriculture such as wineries, bee-keeping and orchards. No issue was of greater importance to the residents than maintaining county roads and bridges.
Rechtzigel said the plan is not meant to provide the final word on all issues but simply be a framework going forward.
“So, say, some new land use like a Zip Rail comes up,” Rechtzigel said, eliciting laughs from those in the room. “It doesn’t mean the county is for it.”
In fact, he noted, the executive summary of the plan twice noted that “Any new or proposed rail system must benefit Goodhue County.” Along with zip rail, the new plan puts a watchful eye on several other issues within the county such as housing developments in the townships, environmental and sustainable farming practices, and the need to promote rural broadband.
Commissioner Brad Anderson noted that many rural landowners are frustrated with the inability to develop township land for housing due to regulations not allowing for less restrictive use in townships than in cities.
That, however, can lead to the creation of “mini-cities,” said Commissioner Ron Allen. “That puts a burden on the sheriff’s department,” he said. “Because they need police protection.”
If large housing developments are being proposed in township lands, Hanni said, it will become an issue the county board must address. However, the aging demographics of the county the growth in housing will be moderate. The survey results showed the county residents are not looking for an overall increase in the rate of subdivision development.
When it comes to land use and development in rural areas, Rechtzigel said, residents seem to be polarized on the issue. “People feel passionately and strong about it.” he said. People who want development feel the county should allow new subdivisions wherever they can be sold. “And people who have moved into rural areas to get away from the rat race, and they feel very strongly about it.”
In other business, the board gave its support to the city of Red Wing’s plan for realignment of the intersection of Twin Bluff Road and Pioneer Road. The city’s plan, which does not use any county money, would incorporate a single roundabout with Twin Bluff Road coming to a “T” at Pioneer Road from the south.
The board also authorized the negotiated purchase of a section of former railroad bed west of Goodhue County Road 18. The 10.3-acre tract will be used for a planned bike and walking trail to connect Red Wing to Hastings.
The board also heard from Zumbrota veterinarian Dan Nietz, who is asking for a tax abatement agreement with the county totaling $35,000 to help with the building cost of his new veterinary clinic in Zumbrota. The city of Zumbrota has already approved a separate tax abatement agreement for $35,000.
The new 4,900-square-foot clinic will cost an estimated $733,000. The project will help Nietz hire a second veterinarian and two veterinary technicians, said County Administrator Scott Arenson. The board took no action, but will vote on the proposal at its July 1 meeting at the Cannon Valley Fair.