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A chance to help shape Brainerd's future

The Brainerd City Council is seeking your applications for consideration to one of three positions open for appointment to the Brainerd Planning Commission. The planning commission is a seven-member advisory board which makes recommendations to the city council on a variety of issues. Any resident of the city of Brainerd or anyone having an ownership interest in a business or property within the city of Brainerd is eligible to be a planning commission member.

If you have an interest in our city’s future and have wanted to be involved in shaping that future, now is a great time to get involved. The year 2014 and upcoming years appear to be bringing forward many issues that will shape our future. Examples include:

• The Wausau Paper plant site. Reuse of the site as a paper production plant is not likely to happen. What is the site’s future and how will its reuse affect the community?

• The Whittier School property future is yet to be determined. The school district’s position is that the property will no longer be used for school purposes. What is the property’s future?

• In 2013 the city council established several strategic planning initiatives that will require planning commission involvement to effectively implement. The University of Minnesota Center for Rural Design has been hired to develop Mississippi Riverfront design concepts. A Walkable Bikeable City Committee has been established with the purpose to implement the strategic initiative of a more walkable and bikeable city. Planning commission participation in these areas will include liaisons to work with the initiatives and planning commission review of the recommendations for these initiatives.

• The single most important policy guide for our city’s growth and development is the comprehensive plan. The current plan was adopted in 2004. Much has changed since that plan’s adoption. Have the community’s goals and policies for growth and development changed? What is the city’s future land use plan? Is our growth strategy and financially feasible? How do we economically invest in our community? Should the city council authorize a plan rewrite, that process will be overseen by the planning commission. A significant and exciting opportunity.

• The heart of communities such as Brainerd is its downtown. What is our downtown’s future? The planning commission’s land use, zoning and development recommendations will be important in shaping its future.

• Recent improvements have been made to the city trail network, however much more can be done. Planning commission prioritization and recommendations will be necessary for future improvements.

A significant planning commission responsibility is conducting public hearings on land use issues. Public hearing information is used in recommendations to the city council on variances, conditional use permits, and zoning map and ordinance changes.

Looking head the planning commission’s plate will be full and it will be involved in many areas.

Hopefully the description of the planning commission and its work has stirred the civic responsibility that lies within you. If so, the process to be considered for planning commission appointment is easy. An application may be obtained at Print one, fill it out and email it to; fax it to 218-828-2316; mail it to city hall c/o Nikki Tabaka, 501 Laurel St., Brainerd, MN, 56401; or drop it off at city hall Monday through Friday between the hours of 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Applications should be submitted by Jan. 28.

MARK OSTGARDEN is the Brainerd city planner and is a member of the Amercian Institute of Certified Planners.