The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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January 11, 2014

North Mankato putting codes before plan

Wisely and for the first time, after the Marigold building controversy, the city of North Mankato decided to hire WSB to develop a comprehensive plan for the city.

Council adoption, after a public hearing, is scheduled for May 19. It was obvious to me after participating in a community visioning session, that the majority of citizens did not want North Mankato to become another Mankato. No big box stores, no mega malls, no skyscrapers in historic lower North Mankato.

Surprisingly, the city has now decided to change the building codes prior to the approval of a comprehensive plan, changes that would affect what could be built before the comprehensive plan is in place to guide those changes. It makes one wonder both for whom the proposed changes are being made as well as how much importance the city is giving to its planning process.

Why can’t we wait just four months until May 19 to see what the comprehensive plan looks like? A number of citizens were at a recent council meeting to express dismay at the city proposing changes before a plan is in place but were ineffective.

Councils can make bad decisions without community input. Think of Mankato’s disastrous decision when, led by Bill Bassett, they tore down blocks and blocks of their downtown under urban renewal. That was 40 years ago and downtown Mankato is still trying to recover.

The current circumstances surrounding North Mankato’s premature code changes prior to having a comprehensive plan in place brings to mind the lyrics of Don McLean’s wonderful song, Starry, Starry Night. It ends with the words: “They did not listen, they’re not listening still, Perhaps they never will.”

Tom Hagen

North Mankato

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