Baxter residents will have an opportunity to help shape the future of the city by participating in a community forum.
The Community Forum–Baxter’s Future is planned from 7-9 p.m. Oct. 28 at Baxter City Hall.
“The Long Range Planning Commission is looking for ideas and opinions from residents on what Baxter is and should be,” the city reported. “What kind of community is Baxter? What should it become? Is it a tourist service highway or family neighborhoods? Is it a regional business/industrial center or recreational playground?”
Those questions and topics of managing growth and development, Baxter’s character and identity, traffic and transportation, parks and trails, open space and effective local government are anticipated at the informal community forum.
Phil Carlson, senior planner at Stantec, is the city’s consultant for the comprehensive plan update. Why is it important for people to take part in the forum? Carlson said there is greater flexibility to shape a community at the beginning of a plan than it is after ordinances regulating such areas as zoning are in place. Carlson said city councils and planning commissions want to know what community members think.
At issue is what shape Baxter will take for the next 20 to 30 years.
“Baxter is many things to many people, so helping to express those different parts will be something we will encourage as the plan develops,” Carlson said.
The community forum is intended to follow an open house format and self-directed tour with a short presentation. People will be able to interact with consultants and staff one-on-one and ask questions. Participants will be able to provide their ideas on a broad range of topics utilizing a series of maps throughout the council chambers.
“We want their ideas and suggestions and concerns on a set of topics — managing growth and development, parks trails and open space, the character and identity of Baxter,” Carlson said.
The city is in the early stages of updating its comprehensive plan, which provides a long-range vision and services as a guide for the city’s future. A comprehensive plan is used by elected and appointed officials as decisions are made and ordinances developed for everything from how and where the city develops and what it looks like.
The comprehensive plan doesn’t have legal weight by itself. Carlson said that’s why its important to put those suggestions into ordinances that have legal clout. And, he said, the more people involved, the more they can make sure the plan is implemented.
There is a saying the world belongs to the people who show up. Baxter, a city of about 7,700, had about 20 people attend a recent town hall meeting where the city presented information about demographics, trends, local options sales tax among other topics.
Josh Doty, the city’s new community development director, reported there are multiple opportunities to participate in the comprehensive plan update process by attending the community forum, by submitting written comments, by attending the Long Range Planning Commission (LRPC) public meetings at 6 p.m. the last Monday of each month (except December) at city hall.
The LRPC is the commission with primary responsibility for the comprehensive plan update process. Meeting agendas and minutes are on Baxter’s website www.baxtermn.gov.
Future meetings will be hosted in the coming months.