By ZACH KAYSER
Winona is in the early stages of updating its comprehensive plan, a framework for how the city will change in the near future. The opportunity for the public and city leaders to reshape the plan in such an expansive way hasn’t occurred for 15 years; the last plan update was finished in 2007.
Carlos Espinosa, Winona city planner, described a comprehensive plan as a metaphorical rudder for the city, steering it along a prescribed course over decades.
“Without the rudder, you jump from one issue to the next,” he said. “With the rudder, it gets you going in a certain direction. So, it helps to point you in a direction as determined by the people who live, work and play in the city of Winona.”
Espinosa said this year’s comprehensive plan will differ in that the city hired Engage Winona to seek out a broad base of public input. The Third Street-based nonprofit fosters community discussion about public policy.
“I think that will be one of the big things that will help this plan to reach more people during its development,” Espinosa said.
On Tuesday, the Winona City Council will vote on whether to approve a list of 10 topics city staff want to address in the 2022 comprehensive plan.
The list will serve as guidelines for the consultant the city chooses to help flesh out the plan. According to the list, “Equity, Technology and Sustainability” are supposed to be included in each item.
Leading off the list is “Land Use and Development,” with accompanying notes from the planning department that mentions potential development in township areas, new public buildings, and continuing to develop the East End business park east of Mankato Avenue.
The list also addresses the environment, suggesting subtopics of green energy, climate change and conservation of water resources. Regardless of whether they’re on the list, such topics as land annexation, public utilities and parking are more than likely to be discussed as well.
Since the city is in the early stages of the comprehensive plan process, the list will change as community discussion hashes out the priorities of the city and its citizens.
“[The list] most likely will … come out probably slightly different from what we’ve sketched out so far,” Espinosa said.
By design, the preliminary list leaves some wiggle room. Depending on whether the city can afford it, at least two more as-yet-undetermined topics will be added through the public engagement process.
When finished, the list will serve as the nucleus for an RFP, or request for proposal, Espinosa said. That RFP will be the guideline for the consultants the city hires for the comprehensive plan as a whole. In contrast to prior plans, where just one consultant handled all aspects of its design, this year there will be two entities working: the undetermined consultant,and Engage Winona, one working on the plan itself, the other working to drum up public interest.
Public engagement will begin at the end of summer or the beginning of fall 2021, he said. Until that time, officials will debate the plan over the course of six months in various public meetings.