The Living Pillar serves as the Comprehensive Plan’s central element for guiding future growth without compromising our rural and agricultural character and natural resources. The Living Pillar will not only guide future growth, but will also help shape the County’s policies that address rural housing needs and settlement patterns. Stearns County’s commitment to this Pillar is further embodied in the following statement and goals.

Pillar Statement

Stearns County shares a broad set of values about ourselves and the place where we live. We will continue to embrace these diverse values by supporting a full range of housing choices that meets resident’s needs at every stage of their lives, and ensure a healthy balance of housing types that meet the needs of a diverse population with diverse needs.

Living Framework

Land use trends within the County have included increased pressure for development, varying by location and development type. The use of land and the patterns of development affect everything from the location and expansion of infrastructure (e.g., roads and utilities), to the state of animal operations, the provision of County services, and the protection of natural resources. As such, there are portions of the County that will experience growth over the next twenty years.

The Comprehensive Planning Team worked with local jurisdictions to confirm the growth areas that were depicted in the 2008 Comprehensive Plan. In many cases, the boundaries have stayed the same or expanded through more recent planning efforts (see figure below). Outreach also determined that not every community has aspirations to grow or agree with their neighboring community’s plans for growth. This presented challenges in rectifying the growth boundaries as part of the Comprehensive Plan update. It has also been the County’s position to not dictate or advocate for growth at the community level. Growth boundaries should be established at the local level. In that respect, local jurisdictions (cities and townships) are encouraged to work together to develop a more formalized growth boundary that is mutually agreed upon.

  • Collaborate with cities and townships to maintain sustainable growth patterns that align with the Comprehensive Plan.
  • Manage the impacts of growth and development on the County’s rural character and natural resources.
  • Support housing options that give people in all life stages and of all economic means viable choices for safe, stable, and affordable homes.
  • Encourage new homes to be constructed in a sustainable manner, while including energy efficient technology and in accordance with state building code.
  • Respect and preserve architectural, archaeological, and cultural history, while building on all residents’ cultural assets to strengthen County cohesion.
Planning For Growth: The County’s Comprehensive Plan has addressed areas of growth as prescribed by Minnesota law (State Statue 462.3535). Identifying these areas in the Plan will not force change to occur. Rather, it is an initial stage in the process of guiding land use appropriately to support change and an acknowledgement that change may occur. Identifying and planning for areas where change is likely to occur allows the County to take a proactive, rather than a reactive role in guiding development.
Orderly Annexation Agreements (OAA): The Orderly Annexation Agreements represent property covered by an agreement between a city and a township in which land will be annexed to the city in the future under specified conditions. OAA’s are a legal tool that can help a township control, to some degree, when and how land is annexed. This proactive measure includes an agreement between both the city and township that stipulates the terms and conditions in the transition/annexation of land.

Focus Areas

Next Steps

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.

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