Dodge County drafts new comprehensive plan
MANTORVILLE – Dodge County is basically a rural county with the booming economies of Rochester and Owatonna as eastern and western neighbors.
County officials have long recognized the need for proper planning to maintain the county’s rural roots without inhibiting growth and to provide the services needed for its growing population. To formalize that planning, county board members voted to update the county’s comprehensive plan in late 2016. The county contracted with the company Community and Economic Development Associates to complete the plan.
Cris Gastner, a spokesman for the company, spearheaded the project.
“We took longer than a year because we wanted to be as thorough as possible,” he said. “The goal of a comprehensive plan can be explained like this: We establish where we are today. Then we go out and meet with the public and the community says, ‘Here’s where we want to go.’ And finally, how do we get there?
“My hope is that this becomes a living document and doesn’t just gather dust,” he added. “We want it to be used and referenced.”
Before the plan was drafted, meetings were held in each Dodge County town and township to gather comments from local residents. A county-wide survey was also mailed to every property tax payer to gather opinions. The population of the county was estimated to be 20,506 in 2016.
Gastner said the process was “ … re-energizing for the county because residents realized the county officials cared about our opinion.”
Representatives from the company also met with people from the state Department of Transportation and the Mayo Clinic because those entities affect the county, Gastner said.
They also met with people in the senior housing facilities in the county and with all department heads in county government.
Trends affecting the county
The draft plan explains some of the trends that will affect land use in the county. They include the U.S. Highway 14 expansion from two-lane to four-lane on both sides of Claremont, the continued consolidation of farms and increased demand for solar and wind energy.
Transportation demands are changing because of the increasing number of commuters traveling to the Rochester and Owatonna labor markets. According to the U.S. Census and Minnesota DEED, data from 2015 indicates that about 7,225 individuals live in the county but commute out of it to work each day.
Also, there could be a greater number of home-based employees and businesses in the county if broadband services were more readily available.
The continuing need for affordable housing must also be addressed.
The county has already contracted for a housing study to be completed to help county officials make decisions about keeping the housing shortage to a minimum.
According to the document, about 94 percent of available housing units are occupied, whereas the national average is about 88 percent.
The housing study is being completed in conjunction with municipal governments in the county. County Environmental Services Director Mark Gamm explained in an email, “One of the goals of the comprehensive plan is to develop growth policies that are consistent (or at least … do not conflict) with plans of all local governments in the county.”
Copies of the plan are available at http://www.co.dodge.mn.us/, public libraries in Dodge County in Kasson, West Concord, Dodge Center and Hayfield, and at the county Environmental Services Department in the Government Services Building.