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Rural character highlighted in Afton comp plan

A commitment to remaining a "rural sanctuary amidst suburban sprawl" is at the center of Afton's 2008 comprehensive plan.

Less confrontational in style than its predecessor of 1998, the plan's vision statement still holds firm to the citizens' desire to retain a rural environment, protect the city's groundwater and preserve its agricultural heritage.

The draft 2008 comp plan was presented to the Afton Planning Commission at its regular meeting on July 7.

"Today, Afton struggles to remain true to the vision of a rural environment, a place neither purely agricultural, nor purely residential, but a blend of both," reads one of the opening paragraphs of its vision statement.

"Located only 15 miles from downtown St. Paul and bordering rapidly growing suburbs, Afton's unique status as a rural sanctuary is worth preserving."

The culmination of months of work by the comp plan advisory committee, the draft plan must now receive approval from the planning commission before it can move forward to the city council, before submission to the Metropolitan Council for final approval.

At the July 7 meeting, one concern of planning commissioners was that the 2008 draft contained no policies, only goals.

"Afton has benefited from some very strict policies," said commissioner Richard Bend.

"I think this is a wonderful statement of goals, but I think we would be remiss if we didn't put some of the policies in, or if we remove all of the policies from our former plan and just see what happens with this."

Big mistake

"I think it's very dangerous to put out a document with only the goals," added commissioner Greg Pennella.

Charles Marohn, the interim city planner who has been leading discussion of the draft comp plan since last year through the company Community Growth Institute, agreed to provide commissioners with an updated 2008 draft plan, including all policies from the 1998 plan at their next meeting.

He was also asked to include the 1998 chapter on the Old Village, a section missing from the 2008 draft, ensuring the downtown Afton area was not left out of the plan entirely.

"It would be a big mistake not to include [the Old Village] in the study," said commissioner Barbara Ronningen.

"In my opinion, it needs to be in the comp plan. It can't be done later. I think that's the whole reason we have a comp plan, with goals and strategies, so you have protected yourself from that renegade council [in the future]."

Commissioners discussed the possibility of not meeting the Met. Council's deadline of September for submission of the Afton comp plan.

"I think we have to be careful not to push out a plan based on a schedule, regardless of quality," said Pennella.

"I know the Met. Council has a schedule... They have nothing they can do to us if we are a year late or six months late."

Discussion and review of the draft plan will continue at the planning commission's next meeting on Aug. 4.