Disclaimer: State law gives the Planning Commission the duty to recommend a Plan to the Council, so as Planning Commission chair, I’m deeply involved and passionately committed to the project. I do not speak for the city or the Planning Commission on this blog (and here’s more about my interactions with official and unofficial communications from my Council days).
What’s a comprehensive plan?
The official page says “A Comprehensive Plan is a guidebook for the city looking 20 years into the future. It starts by defining a shared vision with the community then developing steps toward achieving that vision.”
This is true but incomplete. Comprehensive planning is not just about the vision of Northfield in 20 years, but intended to create a better city with particular emphasis on making a city economically sustainable by anticipating development and the public services needed to support it.
Comprehensive planning got going in the 1960s along with urban renewal (Northfield’s first plan was funded with urban renewal grant dollars). In Minnesota, comp plans are a child of this 1965 state policy:
“The legislature finds that municipalities are faced with mounting problems in providing means of guiding future development of land so as to insure a safer, more pleasant and more economical environment for residential, commercial, industrial and public activities, to preserve agricultural and other open lands, and to promote the public health, safety, and general welfare. Municipalities can prepare for anticipated changes and by such preparations bring about significant savings in both private and public expenditures. Municipal planning, by providing public guides to future municipal action, enables other public and private agencies to plan their activities in harmony with the municipality’s plans. Municipal planning will assist in developing lands more wisely to serve citizens more effectively, will make the provision of public services less costly, and will achieve a more secure tax base.”
Preparing for “anticipated changes” is the challenge. Twenty years ago, we were in the middle of a housing and development boom and I had dial-up internet. Safe to say Northfield did not anticipate the housing bust, the explosion of the internet, Covid-19 and remote work, electric vehicles and more. Certainly not anticipated in the 2001 Comp Plan, anyway.
Looking ahead twenty years, we need to set goals for the kind of place we want Northfield to be and then bet on how many people will move here, how the climate will change, what technology will be developed, and what work will look like (to name a few) and what Northfield will need to do to accommodate these changes sustainably.
How will we get there?
Over on my unofficial Northfield 2045 page, you’ll find links to posts, documents, and information about the process and the content. These are all still taking shape, so stay tuned for updates. My goal is to make the City process as transparent as possible and as clear as possible beyond what may be posted on the official website.
Join the conversation.
Comments are moderated and require a full name for transparency and accountability. I don’t play “invisible dodgeball” where anonymous people throw comments and insults at me. I try to respond to all questions and often like to ask some, too.
- What’s good: questions of all sorts, comments from your perspective, thoughtful criticism (which can be very critical) and requests/demands for more information.
- What I screen out: anonymous comments, comments without full names or with obvious screen names, personal attacks (on elected officials, city staff, other commenters, or anyone else) and unsubstantiated claims about the intentions of other people or city government.