Baby steps towards a stronger regional plan

©Regents of the University of Minnesota. Used with the permission of the Metropolitan Design Center

Have Metropolitan Council members been reading streets.mn?  Of course, I’d like to think so, and the draft principles and goals the Committee of Whole discussed on November 7th reflect some of the ideas you’ve seen here, and generally represent an improvement from plans of old.

While it’s hard to read a lot into a goals document (details and devils will come in later stages, obviously), there are a few nuggets which stand out to this reader.  Here are some highlights, with my emphasis.

Compact new development and redevelopment of existing communities – particularly along transportation
corridors – result in density, land use and urban patterns that leverage proximity to public infrastructure, enhance
livability, and safeguard rural landscapes. Sewered household growth to 2040 occurs in areas where communities
have planned sewered development in their 2030 Comprehensive Plans.

Previous plans have identified continual expansion of the Metropolitan Urban Service Area (MUSA), where sewered development would occur.  This seems to be saying that planning for continued outward expansion is an out-dated concept. While there is certainly lots of developable land left in the 2030 MUSA boundary, we won’t be writing comp plans that identify new sewered development outside the line from last time.  Note the inclusion of the word “compact”.

Land use and development decisions preserve and protect the region’s natural resources, such groundwater
recharge areas, the region’s water resources (lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands), high-value natural resources,
and prime agricultural soils.

While the Met Council has long provided guidance for communities to identify high-value natural areas, it’s never been consistent about how we should protect these resources metro-wide.  While regional parks are considered a “system” by the legislature, natural resources never have been.  These goal seems to indicate a change in that stance.  We’ll see how this plays out.

The region and local governments are prepared for and respond to the opportunities and challenges presented by
climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions and energy use per capita decline.

This whole goal deserves bold text from my point of view.  I was skeptical the Met Council would tackle climate change, even though we can’t afford to wait ten more years to start addressing it at the regional and local level.  Even though this goal is a great step forward, I’m still curious why the Metropolitan Council can’t be consistent with Minnesota state law, and adopt a flat emissions reduction target, rather than use the wiggle words “per capita”.  After all, the climate doesn’t much care about per capita, it cares about total emissions.  Will the Met Council require communities to inventory their geographic and consumption-related emissions as part of their comprehensive plans?  Will they engage in a regional conversation about adapting to coming changes and building resilient communities?  Again, devil and details later.  For now, I think these goals represent a tentative and positive step towards an economically sound and environmentally conscious regional planning process.

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3 Responses to Baby steps towards a stronger regional plan

  1. CC November 30, 2012 at 5:23 am #

    Development decisions support regionally-significant economic assets such as airports, barge terminals, and

    industrial land in proximity to freight railways and highway interchanges. An intermodal freight system delivers

    what our greater region produces to the global marketplace. Previously environmentally-impaired land, particularly

    within transit and highway corridors, is restored to productive use.

    What about that one?

    More trains?

  2. Allen December 3, 2012 at 11:00 am #

    We're already back down below 1990's level for CO2. How much lower does it need to go? How can the MetCouncil play a part?

  3. Brendon Slotterback
    Brendon Slotterback December 4, 2012 at 8:51 am #

    Allen, Minnesota as a state is not below 1990 levels. Here is MPCA's data: http://www.pca.state.mn.us/index.php/topics/clima…. The Met Council can play a part by requiring greenhouse gas inventories, both geographic and consumption-based as part of the comprehensive plan updates, requiring communities to consider GHG emissions impacts of land use and transportation decisions in the comprehensive plans and updating their system plans to include a reduction in emissions throughout.

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