Implementation

The Comprehensive Plan can be implemented in a number of ways. On a daily basis, the document is used by County staff to review applications. The County Board, as well as other advisory commissions use the Plan when making decisions. It is used by residents and developers to understand the County’s intentions for the use of land, infrastructure needs, and planned park and open space improvements. This section of the Plan highlights several ways the Comprehensive Plan can be implemented over time. A summary of these initiatives include:

Future Land Use Plan:

The Future Land Use Plan is an important part to the overall Comprehensive Plan and its Pillars. The Future Land Use Plan designates all land within Stearns County outside the incorporated cities into specific land use categories, as expressed on the Future Land Use Plan map. This map provides a basis for establishing zoning district boundaries and regulatory tools, and for guiding private and public land investments. The map helps guide land use decisions for the next 20 years.

Official Controls:

Stearns County’s Planning and Zoning Ordinances are used to support development and ensure that it adheres to the goals and policies of the Comprehensive Plan. These tools are also used to ensure development is built in a manner that mitigates impacts to the natural and built environment, including traffic and adjacent neighborhoods. These tools will be updated over time to help advance the Comprehensive Plan’s Pillars.

Planning and Programming:

Many of the ideas discussed throughout the Pillars will require additional planning and resources to make reality. These ideas should be reflected upon when developing annual work plans and Capital Improvement Programs (CIP). The CIP is a five year program that identifies budgeting priorities for all capital projects (e.g., roads and parks).

Coordination and Collaboration:

The Pillars include focus areas and policies that will require coordinated efforts by many different public, private, and non-profit entities. As an adopted policy plan, the Comprehensive Plan can help solidify the support, commitment, and collaboration needed to mobilize the county. The Comprehensive Plan’s Pillars should be referenced, celebrated, and promoted both within the community and the region.

Public Outreach and Education:

The entire Stearns County community will be affected by the Comprehensive Plan and the public’s involvement in supporting and helping achieve the Comprehensive Plan’s Pillars is critical. That involvement will be encouraged to continue through education and outreach tools, such as the County’s Comprehensive Plan project website (shapestearns.com), the County newsletter, publications, public hearings, township board meetings, and special advisory panels. Other opportunities include partnerships with local schools to bring awareness to students about the County’s aspirations for the future.

WHAT IS A FUTURE LAND USE PLAN?

The Future Land Use Plan map gives people
a visual representation of what the County is expected to look like in the future. The text, maps and images contained throughout this Plan identify a framework for the future of land in Stearns County. It also helps guide future land use patterns and the development form in the County for the next 20 years. In doing so, it establishes how areas where people live, shop and work are anticipated to look and function in the future.
Examples of when the Future Land Use Plan map is consulted include:

  • Reviewing land use permits
  • Articulating future land use patterns
  • Evaluating rezoning requests
  • Guiding growth and new development
  • Identifying Orderly Annexation Agreement boundaries
  • Prioritizing infrastructure needs
  • Reviewing development proposals

Future Land Use Plan Map

A typical comprehensive plan guides every parcel of land in a community to
a specific land use (various forms of agricultural, residential, commercial and institutional uses.). This is depicted on a Future Land Use Plan map (see Figure 8.1) and continues to guide a property’s use. However, the planning process determined past Comprehensive Plans were too prescriptive in what one can
do with their land – limiting the property owner’s options. Updates to the Comprehensive Plan needed to create greater flexibility. Creating this flexibility is in response to changing markets and rural economies (see the Emerging Trends Chapter), while providing new opportunities for rural communities to attract new residents.

Greater flexibility comes with greater interpretation and cooperation in using the Comprehensive Plan and it’s Future Land Use Plan map. This requires greater transparency in articulating preferred land use patterns and expectations on how to balance projects between land uses (e.g., residential and agricultural uses, and rural/urban fringe) and natural resources, while continuing to emphasize the importance of agricultural uses.

FUTURE LAND USE FACTORS

The Comprehensive Plan’s Pillars and Future Land Use Plan map (see Figure 8.1) maintain a degree of flexibility and interpretation in our land uses. This is achieved through a series of Future Land Use Factors (see page 135). These factors are used to help inform future land use decisions and should be used as a filter for screening projects for their suitability and alignment with the Comprehensive Plan’s Pillars. The factors include:

  • Comprehensive Plan Alignment: This factor builds on an existing process used by decision makers to determine if a proposed project aligns with the County’s Comprehensive Plan.
  • Future Land Use Category: This factors helps determine the future land use category assigned to the project.
  • Land Evaluation Site Assessment Score (LESA): This factor uses soil data to inform the decision making process in an effort to promote agricultural preservation and manage non- farm rural residential development.
  • Future Land Use Criteria: This factor applies development standards and criteria to the Future Land Use categories (see Factor 2).
  • Township Review: This factor builds on an existing process that requires a Town Board’s review or signature on certain proposed projects
  • Application Process: Findings from the other factors will help identify if a proposed project has any perceived risks before advancing through the County’s development review process
WHAT WE HEARD

The planning process determined past Comprehensive Plans were too prescriptive in what one can do with their land – limiting the property owner’s options. Updates to the Future Land Use Plan needed to create greater flexibility. Creating this flexibility is in response to changing markets and rural economies, while providing new opportunities for rural communities to attract new residents.

How to Use the Future Land Use Factors

The Future Land Use Factors provide a greater degree of flexibility when reviewing rezoning requests, subdivisions, and applications for other land use changes.

If a proposed project is generally consistent with the factors, then the proposed project could be considered to be in conformance with the Comprehensive Plan. For example, the County is largely guided for agricultural uses, but does not designate areas for rural residential uses or to some degree, commercial and light industrial uses. Using these factors, a developer is able to propose a development (e.g., subdivision or new land use) in an agricultural/rural area if it meets the six factors. The final determination if a project is consistent with these factors should be made by the County Board and advisory commissions, based on a review from County planning staff.

Purpose:
The factors serve as a resource for helping screen projects or ideas to determine if they align with the Comprehensive Plan before they proceed through the County’s Official Application Process. The factors should also be used when screening larger projects, such as rezoning requests, subdivisions, and applications for other land use changes.

ORDINANCE 439: LAND USE AND ZONING ORDINANCE

This Ordinance is adopted for the purposes of:

  1. Protecting and promoting the public health, safety, welfare and morals.
  2. Promoting and providing for the orderly development of agricultural, residential, commercial, industrial, recreational and public areas and land uses.
  3. Preserving agricultural land and animal agriculture.
  4. Conserving natural and scenic areas of the County.
  5. Conserving natural resources and open spaces.
  6. Providing official controls to implement the goals and policies included in the Stearns County Comprehensive Plan.

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