The Process

The planning process occurred over 16 months, starting in April of 2019 and ending in July of 2020. The overall planning process was guided by a Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee. The Steering Committee was appointed by the County Board and was comprised of 25 residents with varying backgrounds. Each committee member served as a “champion” of the process by promoting the public engagement activities and recommending changes to the 2008 Comprehensive Plan. The Steering Committee met a total of six times.


The Planning Process

The planning process occurred over 16 months, starting in April of 2019 and ending in July of 2020. The Stearns County Board of Commissioners adopted the Plan on July 28, 2020.

The overall planning process was guided by a Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee. The Steering Committee was appointed by the County Board and was comprised of 25 residents with varying backgrounds. Each committee member served as a “champion” of the process by promoting the public engagement activities and recommending changes to the 2008 Comprehensive Plan. The Steering Committee met a total of six times (see Table 1.1)

Public Engagement

Every effort was made to make the planning and public engagement processes accessible to all Stearns County residents. This was achieved by targeting public engagement activities in specific parts of the County, while leveraging online tools. A summary of these activities are listed below.

Pop-Up Events:

Booths were setup at community events in an effort to promote the project, while offering fun activities and giveaways for all ages. Silly putty was handed out to children and residents and were asked “How they will Shape Stearns County’s Future.” Wild flower seed packets were also used as a giveaway to help promote the Plan’s goals in restoring our natural environment.

Township Listening Sessions:

A great deal of outreach and engagement was conducted with the Townships. County staff
made themselves available to attend town board meetings at their request. The County also hosted two Township Listening Sessions to discuss the Plan’s over arching changes. These sessions were also used as an opportunity for township officials from across the County to gather and discuss growth patterns and development trends.

Stakeholder Meetings:

Presentations were given to a variety of stakeholder groups. This included meetings with local Chambers of Commerce, special interest groups, and organizations.

Businesses:

Businesses located in the western part of the County were provided brochures to place in their break room. This was an opportunity to hear from rural businesses and employees who may experience different economic needs compared to the eastern part of the County. County staff also setup in break rooms (i.e., Cold Spring USA) to engage employees about their concerns and issues.

School District:

Materials (e.g., posters, brochures, and class curriculum) were provided to the school districts to promote the importance of civic engagement within the classrooms. Presentations were also given to high school civic classes.

Online Engagement:

A project website was developed to reach across all devices (e.g., desktop, laptop, tablet, and mobile) in order to help Stearns County connect with residents and businesses. The project website included regular project updates, draft materials, meeting minutes, and online engagement tools. Online engagement included surveys and an “ideas wall” (chat forum) to learn what makes Stearns County a great place to live, work, and recreate.

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.

Implementation

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