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Afton council, planning commission, looking for compromise

Friction between the Afton City Council and the Afton Planning Commission over the last several months led to the two bodies taking steps to remedy tensions during two separate work sessions -- one earlier last month and one last Tuesday.

The topics of discussion during the work sessions included communication between the two bodies, how to better work together and recent issues surrounding proposed ordinances.

"The problem is how can the Planning Commission get enough direction so they have a focus, without the council telling them what the final product should be," interim city administrator Ron Moorse said. "The answer is that the council says 'what' they want the end to be, but the planning commission figures out the 'how.'"

During both work sessions, members of the City Council and the Planning Commission expressed frustrations with communication on the topics that both bodies have been working on over the last several months.

"We need better communication," Mayor Pat Snyder said. "I would like to see us work together better so we can accomplish our goals -- what we've been doing hasn't been working apparently."

Three specific issues prompted the City Council and the Planning Commission to revisit their teamwork -- the wind energy ordinance, the conservation design ordinance and the comprehensive growth plan. All three issues were discussed during the two joint work sessions.

Comp plan

The issue the two bodies spent the most time discussing was comprehensive growth plan, which still has portions unfinished.

The Planning Commission originally began working on updating the city's comprehensive growth plan, but once tensions began to arise between the council and planning commissioners, the council took over the responsibility.

Commissioner Tom Nolz said it was the Planning Commission's fault for not working on the comp plan with full force.

"The Planning Commission didn't grab the bull by the horns and get the ball rolling in developing the comp plan" said Nolz, brother to City Council member Peg Nolz. "So, it floundered for a while and got off track."

However, some commissioners said they were offended by the City Council's actions.

"That was kind of a slap in the face," Ronningen said. "It felt like the council was saying that it doesn't trust the Planning Commission to do the work."

Additionally, commissioners expressed their frustration with all of the changes the council made to the document.

"Nobody asked us about what changes were being made," Bend said. Snyder said she was very sorry for how things turned out with the comp plan.

"I did not intend to take it away from the Planning Commission at all," Snyder said. "But that is what happened and we need to change that."

Now that the comp plan is back in the council's hands, Snyder said she hopes that the Planning Commission can be more involved.

"I would like to see the comp plan done," Council member Joe Richter said.

"We would all like it off our plate," said Barb Ronningen, a planning commissioner.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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