Cologne Council mulls strategy for comprehensive plan update due in 2018

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by Adam Gruenewald
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Cologne Council members, city staff and consultants will be seeking input on the 2040 comprehensive plan update that is due by the end of 2018.
City Planner Dean Johnson as well as Haila Maze of Bolton and Menk were both present at the most recent council meeting on March 6 as well as a prior Planning Commission meeting.
“We hope to have a lot of the draft information and preliminary decision made by the fall,” said Johnson, adding that public input will be sought as well prior to a public hearing late next spring with a review prior to next summer.
Among the factors in the plan include forecasts of growth out to 2040 as well as potential developments, sharing his cautious optimism with the council.
“It’s still substantial,” said Johnson. “Of the things we’re going to continue to evaluate closely is how we’re going to keep those forecast within those existing boundaries and… communicate with other players in the community.”
Factors impacting the last plan including the then-completed interchange project and housing developments have shifted significantly, according to Johnson, while Highway 212 expansion could impact the 2040 plan.
M&I Homes remains a significant factor in future planning, Johnson said, adding that Bolton and Menk will evaluate the capacity of different systems with growth projections.
“I think your best prospects for continuing growth is the investment that’s here,” said Johnson. “We’re going to look at the easiest way for you to grow into the future.”
Council member Kyle Evenski expressed concern about reaching a variety of people in the community, rather than the typical select few.
Maze encouraged the use of digital tools to reach young families who might not be able to attend meetings.
“If we can make them appealing enough and attractive enough, people can do that on their own time,” she said, adding that they will maintain an effort to reach people at events like Glad Days as well. “You’re never going to get 100 percent, but you can at least provide people multiple opportunities to get into the process.”
In other news, council members spent considerable time sharing their concerns regarding the proposed sales tax and wheelage tax increases to pay for roads as previously shared by Carver County representatives
As mentioned earlier, a 1/2 percent transportation sales tax and increase in wheelage tax from $10 to $20 per vehicle per year would generate sufficient funding for roads.
Council member Kyle Evenski weighed the city’s options, initially not wanting to formally give his support.
“I don’t feel like I want to tax anybody anymore, however I feel like giving our support would be beneficial,” said Evenski, adding the potential impacts on the growth of Cologne are substantial. “While knowing that the infrastructure/roadways in and out of our city is our lifeline, we also have 2,000-plus citizens to take into consideration.”
Council member Carol Szarolleta also weighed in on the issue.
“I support it,” she said. “If they work on 212 coming out here as part of it then we would grow. That’s what we need, we need 212 to come out here, but there seems to be a tax question.”
Mayor Matt Lein agreed.
“If 212 was at the top of the list, we could pretty easily come up with an explanation of why we support it officially,” he said.
In the end, Cologne council members agreed to submit individual responses to Carver County staff, while saying they will likely approve a future resolution in support of the tax increases, while also stressing their desire for the immediate prioritization of Highway 212 in the plan.
Council members also approved a temporary liquor license for the Cologne Fire Department Relief Association for April 29, approved the advertisement of two full-time mowing and public works employees for the summer and also revisited their tablet and software discussion, going with Acer Chromebook R13 tablets costing $399 each and also considering Granicus software that could cost about $3,000 a year.
The Cologne City Council will next meet at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 20.

Follow Adam Gruenewald on Twitter @adamgruenewald.