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County board approves draft comp plan

Envision a Washington County with 132,000 more residents, nearly 60,000 additional households and more than 60,000 additional jobs. That's the growth projected for county over the next 20-some years. And county officials are wasting no time in planning for those projections.

On Tuesday the county board voted to approve a draft plan of the county's 2030 comprehensive growth plan that includes some language changes to the document that was reviewed by commissioners, staff and a planning advisory committee earlier this spring.

The draft plan will be forwarded to the Twin Cities Metropolitan Council for review and will be available for public review from June to December. County commissioners are expected to approve a finalized comp plan by next summer.

As mandated by the Met Council, Washington County and all municipalities in the Twin Cities Metro Area must update their comprehensive plans every decade. Washington County last updated its plan in 1997. County planner Jane Harper said the overall vision of the 2030 comp plan is "very similar to the 2020 plan," which was amended in 2002.

The goal of the plan, Harper said, is to "accommodate the county's projected population growth by 2030 while incorporating sustainable growth and preserving the natural, cultural and historic characteristics of the county."

Some of the few new substantial additions county officials have written into the draft plan include policies and strategies to address sustainability, healthy communities and transit-oriented development, Harper said.

The plan includes chapters on residential and commercial development, transportation, groundwater and parks for cities and townships throughout the county.

At their May 26 board meeting, county commissioners generally approved of the draft plan, but cited some concerns over disagreements with the townships of Baytown and West Lakeland over land-use changes and future sewer and water utilities expansion. Projected development of those townships, along with cities like Afton and Lakeland, will help drive future development of possible transit systems in the east metro I-94 corridor, said Washington County Commissioner Dennis Hegberg

The Met Council has forecasted areas along the I-94 corridor the east metro will see an increase in residential housing over the next 20 years, and as such the county is planning for a transit study for the corridor. Late last year the county committed a half million dollars to an I-94 corridor transit study.

"Higher density (along the I-94 corridor) is absolutely necessary to go with the transit investment," Hegberg said.

District 3 Commissioner Gary Kriesel, who represents many of the townships along the St. Croix Valley, said it is important for the county to continue to develop open channels of communication with the more rural municipalities like Lakeland and Afton, in the county that are projected to see growth leading up to 2030 and will be included in transit development discussions.

"We have to have a real close relationship with West Lakeland, Lakeland and Afton so they are aware that as transit gets built out on that I-94 corridor how that's going to get them benefits," Kriesel said.

To get a look at Washington County's draft 2030 comprehensive growth plan go to: your_county_government/ comprehensive_plan_2030/