Planning Commission OKs, sends Comprehensive Plan to commissioners
The Dodge County Planning Commission gave its approval to the revised county Comprehensive Plan last week following a public hearing.
The plan is a revision of the comprehensive plan that was last revised in 2001. The new version was first presented to the public in February and further revised after public input was gathered from the public through public meetings, a survey and other comments. There also were discussions with other interested parties such as MnDOT, Mayo, schools and care centers.
Several changes were made after reviewing the public input, said Cris Gastner of CEDA which prepared the plan.
In his opening remarks at the hearing, Gastner said that a comprehensive plan is not a zoning ordinance or regulations but rather a tool to develop those other documents.
Public input, he said, showed that residents were interested in maintaining the county’s rural values and character, protecting prime agricultural land, growing and sustaining diversity and housing options, providing increased opportunity for business growth and increased jobs, supporting improved access to quality broadband in rural areas, increasing recreational opportunities, allowing for growth without jeopardizing clean air and water and improving and maintaining transportation infrastructure.
Following Gastner’s presentation, several audience members spoke to address their concerns about the plan or offer their support.
Rob Westgard, a resident of Milton Township, said he was concerned about restrictions regarding building a home on a parcel less than 53 acres. He explains he owns a parcel that is now unbuildable because the limits permitting building has been reached in his quarter section. Allowing him to build, he said, would raise the tax base and also not be taking away any agricultural land.
Sonja Eayrs, representing Dodge County Concerned Citizens, told the commission that none of the issues that the group has raised in earlier meetings had been addressed.
While there are limits on building a residence on less than 53 acres, she said, the county is still permitting factory farms on five acres.
“There is no effort in the plan to address factory farms,” she said, telling commission members they are only inviting more conflict.
She said instead of putting the citizens first, the plan was pro development and pro factory farm.
Brad Trom said that he raises dogs and that over the past few years whenever people come to look at the dogs their first comment is “what’s that smell.”
“It’s the hogs,” he said. The odors affect the dogs, the animals and the people, he said.
Doug Eayrs commented that he appreciated the county doing the presentation on the plan but wished to point out that three branches of the Zumbro River in Dodge County go south right into Olmsted County and Rochester. That means, he said, that what Dodge County does affects neighboring counties.
They also have a home in Concord Township, he said, and their well is contaminated. That area of the county is a karst area and that makes the water sensitive to contamination.
Ken Folie, a member of the Canisteo Township Board, pointed out that there are always concerns about water usage.
The water used in feedlots, he said, is returned to the soil where the water that used in communities is directed somewhere else.
He also responded to comments made by Sonja Eayrs that controversies over feedlots had led to trash tossed in ditches near her father’s farm and road signs shot at. In Canisteo Township, he said, trash is regularly dumped in ditches and many signs are used for target practice.
“We want to remain pro-ag,” he added.
County Commissioner Rod Peterson said he was speaking for himself and not in an official capacity but he wanted to thank everyone involved in preparing the plan and the citizens for their input.
The discussion, he said, gives an indication of where the citizens want to go.
“There are a lot of competing interests,” he said. “Life is fluid and the plan needs to be fluid.”
Following the closing of the public hearing the Planning Commission voted unanimously to forward the plan to the County Board with a recommendation for its approval.