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Opinion: City of Brainerd Comprehensive Plan Update Progress

Mark Ostgarden

In the next two weeks, a series of Brainerd City Council ward meetings has been scheduled to provide an opportunity for neighbors to come together for a discussion about the future of our city. An invitation has been mailed to each city address, inviting residents and businesses to attend the meeting in the ward where they live and/or work.

The meetings will be from 6-7:30 p.m.

Following are the locations/dates/times for each ward meeting:

• Ward 2 — Tuesday, March 27, First Congregational Church, 415 Juniper St.

• Ward 4 — Thursday, March 29, Harrison School, 1515 Oak St.

• Ward 3 — April 3, Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 418 Eighth Ave. NE.

• Ward 1 — April 5, Trinity Lutheran Church, 1420 S. Sixth St.

Each meeting will begin with a short presentation about the importance of a comprehensive plan to the community and you, the residents.

Each session will provide attendees with an opportunity to spend "Brainerd Bucks," a metaphor for tax dollars. Attendees will be given "Brainerd Bucks" to fund the plan update issues that are most important to them.

We hope to see you at the meeting in your ward!

The following plan update actions occurred in 2016 and 2017:

1. Three hundred citizens signed on to be part of a Community Survey Panel. Panel members had the opportunity to participate in seven surveys about issues important in the plan update.

Survey topics included:

• Quality of life

• Infrastructure maintenance

• Communication with residents

• City government performance

• And many others.

The link to the survey results is:

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survey results can be accessed on the city of Brainerd website and

clicking on "Government" then "Planning Department."

A big thank you to the Community Survey Panel members for your participation in the


2. The city council has approved agreements with the National Joint Powers Alliance and the Region Five Development Commission for plan update assistance.

3. The city council has appointed a 12-member steering committee to recommend a draft

plan update to the planning commission. The steering committee members include:

school district representative Aaron Sinclair, ISD 181 assistant superintendent; health care representative Mike Larson, chief operating officer, Essentia Health/St Joseph's Medical Center; local industry representative Mike Higgins, president, Brainerd Industrial Center;

local industry representative Jeff Grunenwald, president, GreenForest Recycling; small business owner Brian Moon, Easy Riders Bicycle and Sportshop; small business owner P.J. Severson, The Local 218; real estate, Rick Fargo, Progressive Property Management; Brainerd Lakes Area Development Corporation Board member Pam O'Rourke; resident (with topic expertise), Staci Headley (also planning commission chair); park board member Timothy Boeder; planning commission member Charles Marohn; and city council member Jan Lambert.

The steering committee has met twice, and its next meeting is scheduled for April 19.

4. Several focus group meetings have occurred, the purpose of which have been discussions with community sectors about the issues, from the group's perspectives, are important to city's


Community engagement will be ongoing in the plan update process. For example, additional focus group meetings will be planned and we welcome suggestions about what community sectors to include in the plan update process. While the Community Survey Panel results have a lot of important information, we are planning an additional online citizen survey. Further in the process, listening sessions will be scheduled for input on the draft plan update.

There is an expression that goes something like, "Without a map, any road will do." Our community realizes that any road will not do. The Comprehensive Plan Update will be "the road map" for our community to follow for the next 15 to 20 years.

Should anyone have any Comprehensive Plan Update questions and/or would like more information, please email the planning department at, call 218-828-2309 or check the city website Comprehensive Plan Update page.

Thank you to the Brainerd Dispatch for printing this column and thank you to the community for your participation in creating "the road map" to our future.