On Wednesday, August 24th I was lucky enough to attend a community forum put on by the City of Minnetonka as part of their Imagine Minnetonka campaign. The purpose of the meeting was simple enough – the city is working on updating its comprehensive plan, a sort of blue print for where the city is now and is going in the future; this plan is required by the Metropolitan Council. During this meeting the city was seeking input from any and all community members on what they thought were the big issues Minnetonka is facing now and will face in the future.
Over 25 city residents came to express their views about how Minnetonka will change over the next 20 years and the challenges and possibilities that these changes might entail. With the Metropolitan Council predicting that Minnetonka could see a population increase of 10,000 people between now and 2040, this population increase could put major strains on the city’s current water, sewage, and transportation infrastructure. Not to mention the need to build a lot more housing.
With all of the issues needing to be addressed, I was quite pleased to see that conservation issues were a major theme in the small group discussions we had during the forum. Some groups included making the city more bike and pedestrian friendly; increasing transportation options; preserving open and green spaces; and creating a more reliable electrical grid. All of which happen to be issues I work on in my work as Conservation Minnesota’s west meto community coordinator.
One of the biggest questions that kept coming up was how to find a way to balance the continuing push for development with a desire to keep the green and open feel of the city. Add in the fact that development impacts all of the other issues raised at the meeting, from storm water runoff to traffic levels on Interstate 394, and it becomes clear that the city is facing some pretty major choices about its future. And because all of these issues are pretty complex, it becomes clear that their aren’t obvious answers to these questions.
The meeting was quite informative. For example, I probably never would have guessed that improving transportation and walkability options was a major concern for Minnetonka residents, but it was an issue that was raised several times by different individuals. Likewise, I learned that I personally need to learn more about development issues and zoning laws in the city as these policies affect a broad range of conservation issues.
By having these sorts of community conversations, we can all learn more about what needs to be done to improve Minnetonka’s future and their conservation polices.