Podcast: Chamber of Commerce President David Ludescher on the Comprehensive Plan

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Northfield Chamber of Commerce President David Ludescher was our in-studio guest this week. David’s words about the development principles (see draft 2 here – PDF) during the open mic portion of the second public meeting on the Northfield Comprehensive Plan a couple of weeks ago (right photo, click to enlarge) caught our attention and so we invited him to argue with us discuss the issues. He recently attached these comments to the public comments portion of the plan’s website (public comments are still being accepted there):

55% of the participants in the Comp Plan meeting stated that the primary objective of the Comp Plan should be directed to Northfield’s “appearance”. I would argue that a Comp Plan directed at maximizing appearances will more closely resemble a townhouse association than the utopia which is imagined. Someone told me last night that she used to belong to a townhouse association that made her take down a birdhouse because it violated the rules established to keep the townhouses looking nice.

I am almost sure that our present downtown was primarily the result of haphazard development, which was quite likely considered an eyesore by many in its own day. The east side homes, considered by many to be the ideal kind of housing development for Northfield, were quite likely, the Mayflower Hill of its day. They were large, monstrous houses compared to the shantys which were the norm. These houses probably ruined the character of Northfield of the time.

Should “appearances” dominate the planning strategy for Northfield? Would we settle for the appearance that our children are learning, instead of requiring educational product as the true test? Would we settle for the doctor making us look good on the outside while our health deteriorated? Would we buy a car that looked good if it didn’t have a working engine? Would we consider the most important quality of our friends that they look good?

We all know that a Comp Plan designed on appearances, and for appearance’s sake will ultimately fail to achieve anything but appearances.

I say that we need to strive for more lasting, and intrinsically valuable goals for the future of our town. Let’s take a serious and honest look at what Northfield needs to do in the coming decades to continue to be a self-sustaining community. Granted, people will be attracted to Northfield if it looks wonderful, has great public amenities, and offers a small town character. But, it will not be a diverse cross-section of people. It will be people who want to belong to a very large townhouse association in which the price of admission is high taxes and excessive regulation. — David Ludescher

Click play to listen. 34 minutes. (Corrected audio as of 1:45 PM)

Our show, Locally Grown, airs on Tuesdays at 4:30 PM, KRLX, 88.1 FM. You can also subscribe to the podcast feed, or subscribe with iTunes. We seek your comments and suggestions. Attach a comment to this blog post or use the Contact Us page to send us email. See the show archives for audio of other episodes.

132 Comments

  1. Jerry Bilek said:

    this sounds like last week’s podcast.

    May 31, 2007
  2. Griff Wigley said:

    Ack! You’re right, Jerry… Curt alerted me, too. My bad. Fix on the way.

    May 31, 2007
  3. Griff Wigley said:

    Fixed as of 1:45 PM today. Podcast episode RSS deleted and reissued. Apologies to all who were forced to listen to us 3 again from last week.

    May 31, 2007
  4. Jerry Bilek said:

    I hope you all wore protective gear. Are these the views of David or the Chamber?

    Where to start? I would hope the Chamber would not advocate that code violations should be ignored. Maybe we put up some Hoovervilles, that would be cheap. Free Market.

    David said prices are higher in Northfield? What prices? real estate, rentals, groceries, clothing, gas?

    Safety tip for Tracy. If you use the word “we,” duck immediately after saying it or you may have your head taken off.

    David,
    You said you moved here by choice, you liked what you saw, the beautiful historic town on the river. Now your willing to throw it out the window in favor of freedom of choice.

    I was hoping to join the chamber this year. If these are the views of the chamber, no thanks.

    June 1, 2007
  5. David Ludescher said:

    Thanks to the hosts for having me on the air. I appreciated the opportunity to use some of my hosts’ time to explain an alternative position to the development principles being proposed.

    The Northfield AREA Chamber of Commerce’s position is reflected in its mission statement – to be a leader in creating a healthy business environment. Even though the views expressed on air where my own opinions, the Chamber is quite concerned that the development principles will negatively impact a need that both the Chamber and the EDA (Economic Development Authority) have identified, namely, the development of usable land for commercial and industrial development. Without an expansion in these vital areas, we are likely to see either stagnation of public services, or substantially increased taxes on residential properties to pay for these services.

    The views which I expressed at the Comprehensive Plan meeting were a better reflection of the difficulties that I and the Chamber board sees with implementation of these principles without additional thought and input.
    For example, what would have been the result of the new hospital if it had been forced to develop on the west side rather than expanding? The conclusion of the hospital board, a public body, was that the long term future of the hospital would be in serious jeopardy. They concluded that the end result would have been that we wouldn’t have had a hospital for Northfield.

    What would happen if we were to try to remove the trailer parks? Where would those people, many of them immigrants, go? Build them affordable housing? With whose money?

    Recently, the Extension Service came to Northfield to speak on Northfield’s retail environment. The NDDC, Chamber, EDA, and Mayor were all there. We heard that Northfield presently has retail sales equal to 49% of what could be expected for a town our size. That means that Northfielders spend more dollars outside of Northfield than inside. If tourism is considered, Northfielders may be spending 2 or 3 dollars outside of Northfield for every dollar they spend here. Furthermore, that 49% has been dropping. Can “we” develop a Comprehensive Plan that addresses this concern, especially for the downtown retailers,

    What those figures say to me is that Northfield is turning into a bedroom community. Do we want to encourage and design a “special” bedroom community or do we want to encourage and design a total community? The total community has to balance visual, intellectual, and spiritual attractiveness with the utilitarian realities of price, value, and practicality.

    In fairness to the Planning Commission, they have not been presented with any alternatives. (However, neither has it asked.) The Chamber has begun to prepare some alternatives. We would then hope to coordinate our efforts with the other business groups, including the EDA, NDDC, and NEC to present, what we view, is a more balanced, i.e. comprehensive plan, for Northfield’s future.

    When all is said and done, the Chamber hopes that everyone in Northfield can say that “we” have a comprehensive plan that serves the common good, and not just a particular, albeit articulate and well-meaning, fraction of the community.

    It has been said that some things are proposed for belief, some things for hope, and some things for action. The Planning Commission presently has a Plan for Hope. Now, we need to take it and make it a comprehensive plan for action. The Chamber stands ready to do its part.

    June 1, 2007
  6. Peter Waskiw said:

    Developing principles is important components in any decision making system, especially in City government where competing objectives face one another. The principles guide the decision makers in making sound decisions even though there can be disagreement.

    Perhaps, view the principles as a ruder guiding a ship. The ruder doesn’t get the ship to its destination, nor drive the sails nor man the ropes, but simply steers the boat. The ruder is an unseen object in the water but when ignored and not used makes the journey…well, pointless with no direction.

    The current Comprehensive plan did develop principles. Where these principles ever used in making decisions when competing objectives emerged in discussions? Where they used to create a situation where the questions were asked, what principle do we have to guide our decision? What is it that we want to achieve? I know of very few “planning” decisions where the current principles where used to either base a decision or allow decision makers to refocus the discussion. Basically, principles assist to address the essentials that DEFINE Northfield. They let decision makers and those that guide them measure the discussion and alternately their votes.

    Plans can not cover ever element of development or planning, nor should they, however principles can. Principles can be referenced throughout the plan and be supported by polices that ‘flesh out’ the framework. In a way principles are quasi performance objectives that allow the issue to be ‘measured’ against the performance of the outcome…whatever it is. For example, I have pasted below sections from the existing Comprehensive Plan that address very important elements such as “Identity”, “Businesses Compatibility”, “Transportation Patterns”

    Identity:- Existing principle: “Northfield should project a clear community identity reflecting its history, landmarks, natural resources, and distinctive sense of place.
    How have we used this existing principle in making decisions? If you answered, I don’t know then, perhaps, Northfield as either ignored the use of principles in the past in making decision or fails to understand how to use them. Will developing new ones bring about a change of heart?

    Businesses Compatibility:- Existing principle: “Northfield should provide an attractive environment for businesses compatible with the community to succeed.”
    How have we used this one? Which businesses have located to Northfield that supports this performance outcome? If all Economic development is healthy, then, any development is “compatible”! However, if you define “compatible” with the word “community” then perhaps we define the Northfield community as being different to say some other communities. Again, how has this principle been understood or even implemented in assisting decision makers? If your answer is don’t know or not sure, then perhaps creating a new principle will not help.

    What about “Transportation Patterns”? Existing principle: “Northfield’s transportation system should support a traditional community development pattern.
    Here we have the words “system” with “traditional” with “pattern”. Has decisions regarding transportation patterns or systems reflected this principle? Current debate over existing transportation networks reflects a lack of thinking behind this principle.

    David’s comments above regarding principles stated that “development principles (draft 2) will negatively impact a need that both the Chamber and the EDA (Economic Development Authority) have identified, namely, the development of usable land for commercial and industrial development.” Perhaps you’re right David. But I would argue that the real risk is that the new principles will not be implemented at all, even in their limited form. The missing element is not so much having the right principles, but actually using them to guide decisions in the face of competing objectives. After all, Northfield decisions makers need to base their decisions on something that the resident believes to be the best outcome for the entire community.

    June 1, 2007
  7. Ross Currier said:

    David:

    Thank you so much for appearing on our show. And thank you for spending so much time at the Second Public Meeting talking with me about your concerns and sharing those concerns with the assembled group.

    First, I’ve got some shocking news for you. “Your” HRA (Housing and Redevelopment Authority) has not only moved beyond the planning stage for “removing the trailer parks” but has already set aside funds for this project. I think that you and I would agree that very few of the current residents will likely be able to afford to remain living there after this redevelopment.

    Second, you are spot-on correct that Northfield’s Retail Pull Factor has been steadily dropping. And I totally agree with you that we should be concerned about it. However, I will note that Northfield’s decline is mirrored by comparable communities. Our near proximity to the Metro Area is a real challenge. Nevertheless, public and private entities could be doing more to address this issue.

    Finally, I think we would agree that Northfield must put “business-friendliness” at the top of its priorities. Whether out of concern for “tax base” or desire for long-term economic “sustainability”, it is one of the most important things that we can work on together. I think you, and the Chamber, have made important progress toward this goal by expanding the focus of your lobbying campaign beyond the Planning Commission to include the EDA. I hope that you will also include the HRA, the City Council and the State Legislature too. Who knows, we may even get some ideas at the NDDC’s Forum (http://nddc.org/weblog/post/702/) on Tuesday.

    Thanks again for raising this important topic,

    Ross

    June 2, 2007
  8. Anne Bretts said:

    I guess the question I have is about what all these principles really mean. They sound like a bunch of variations on how much we like apple pie, without a single recipe indicating how that pie might be made. And I know we’re talking guiding principles here, but can you guide a ship with the only principles being that we’d like to get from New York to London in a nicely designed boat and not drown?

    I understand the frustration of the Chamber and others. I don’t agree with total construction anarchy, but vague principles leave too much open to interpretation by the Planning Commission. Phrases such as “protecting the character of the community” could be used to support a total residential construction moratorium, and if that’s the goal it should be stated. Some want that now. If it’s a majority, the rest of us should know.

    So what is desirable growth, or is there any? Given the population and surrounding market area, what kind of retail can and should the community reasonably draw? For example, Chipotle might come in, but we are 30,000 people and a mall short of drawing an Olive Garden. (I’m not saying chain restaurants are the answer, just giving an example of different traffic counts needed for different businesses.) Who are the targets for the NDDC and EDA recruiting efforts? What list of targets was used to determine the retail at The Crossing was a viable development? What was the project so prized if the demand wasn’t there, while successful projects on Highway 3 are criticized?

    The overarching mystery is why we are re-inventing the wheel. Have we looked a what communities are the closest match to what Northfield could be, and how they got there? It’s nice to think Northfield is “unique” but there are lots of similar towns facing similar issues. What makes one work while another struggles?

    It just seems that testing a variety of apple pies and tweaking the recipes to get the right result for Northfield would be more efficient (and satisfying) than just sitting here with a pile of apples, flour, shortening and sugar and starting from scratch.

    June 2, 2007
  9. David Ludescher said:

    I have heard at least 4 good thoughts to carry back to the Chamber, (and the City?) for the Comp Plan process:

    1. Focus on the positives of what has been developed. There are strong sentiments for creating a town that is “special”.
    2. The process will be wasted if the Plan does not actually guide decisions. The Plan has to be a rudder for the City. What systems are in place to make sure it is used?
    3. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Let’s take a look at other communities and their plans to see what they did, and how the plans were implemented.
    4. The Chamber’s “lobbying” campaign should include a broad cross-section of Northfield government and the people.

    Thanks to all.

    June 3, 2007
  10. Tracy Davis said:

    I have to chime in and plead with everyone to PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT GUIDING PRINCIPLES ARE ONLY THE FIRST STEP. If we stop there, we’ve failed. Personally, I have absolutely no interest in serving on a body that would only concern itself with vague principles; we have plenty of those already.

    The whole impetus behind the comp plan revision is to change our land use ordinances to make them current, clear, and cohesive. If done properly this will promote economic growth in Northfield, rather than hinder it. But the ordinances shouldn’t just come out of nowhere; they need to be tied to underlying goals and objectives, which in turn must relate to a community vision, which is the part we’re working on now.

    Maybe a better way to put it is to think of this first “visioning”/draft principles part as the view from 30,000 feet. Then we zoom in a little closer to making goals and objectives, finally bringing us down to ground level with the ordinances.

    June 3, 2007
  11. Tracy Davis said:

    Or to continue Anne’s analogy, the ordinances would be the recipe for that tasty apple pie.

    June 3, 2007
  12. Tracy Davis said:

    I also don’t think we need to reinvent the wheel. Even though Northfield doesn’t have many (any?) close analogues in terms of college communities in a traditionally agricultural area within 45 miles of a major metropolitan center, much work has been done with “smart codes” or “form-based codes” in other communities which enables us to see how they work, and what the economic downsides are or could be.

    June 3, 2007
  13. Anne Bretts said:

    I understand what guiding principles are. I’ve watched dozens of communities similar to Northfield go through the same process. And in the end everyone pretty much agrees they like apple pie (to continue the analogy). I just don’t see why it takes so many months and so much money to order dessert.

    As for similiar towns, here’s a list of 10 small college towns I found in about a minute on http://www.epodunk.com/top10/colleges/index.html

    TOP-RANKED COLLEGE TOWNS
    BY COMMUNITY SIZE
    BIG CITIES
    1 Boston-Cambridge, MA
    2 Minneapolis, MN
    3 Denver, CO
    4 Columbus, OH
    5 Seattle, WA
    6 Atlanta, GA
    7 Austin, TX
    8 Washington, DC
    9 Cincinnati, OH
    10 Saint Louis, MO
    MEDIUM-SIZED CITIES
    1 Columbia, SC
    2 Tallahassee, FL
    3 Madison, WI
    4 Urbana-Champaign, IL
    5 Ann Arbor, MI
    6 Berkeley, CA
    7 Athens, GA
    8 Fort Collins, CO
    9 New Haven, CT
    10 Provo, UT
    SMALL CITIES
    1 Charlottesville, VA
    2 Bozeman, MT
    3 Hays, KS
    4 Boulder, CO
    5 Missoula, MT
    6 Manhattan, KS
    7 Burlington, VT
    8 Bismarck, ND
    9 Iowa City, IA
    10 Chapel Hill, NC
    TOWNS
    1 Hanover, NH
    2 Princeton, NJ
    3 Brookings, SD
    4 Middlebury, VT
    5 Durango, CO
    6 Bronxville, NY
    7 Menomonie, WI
    8 Oneonta, NY
    9 Rolla, MO
    10 Conway, SC

    I grew up near Valparaiso, Indiana, a really good match for Northfield when it started growing 15 years ago. Now it’s much bigger and more developed, a result of the unending growth of the Chicago market.
    Vincennes, Indiana, is another similar town, although a bit more rural.
    There are several others in Wisconsin.

    And I think that there needs to be an effort to do a survey or other method to reach out and really get a handle on public opinion. The self-selection of community meetings, where people with strong anti-growth agendas have an incentive to attend, can intimidate others from speaking or even attending. This can result in a product that becomes a reflection of the loudest voices rather than the majority.
    Sure, people have a responsibility to speak, but the pattern of public meetings is that the people with an agenda and an incentive to push a point of view tend to make the effort to show up, while people who are happy with the development and growth don’t. It happens with all kinds of issues, not just growth.

    June 3, 2007
  14. Bill Ostrem said:

    First I’ll use this conversation to reply to Mr. Ludescher regarding the comments he made at the second public meeting on the comprehensive plan revision. I apologize for not yet listening to the podcast.

    Mr. Ludescher, I agree that Northfield needs to keep a vital business community, and I am not opposed to new development entirely. I’m not even absolutely opposed to new development on the edge of town. However, I’m concerned about the comment you made that implementing the new planning principles would make living in Northfield much more expensive. You said that only “the elite” would be able to live here.

    How do you know this? What is your reasoning?

    Also, you seemed to dismiss all the principles as misguided, and this concerns me very much, because I see them as just where communities need to go. Which principles do you agree with, if any?

    I’d like to propose that a “green” development plan of the kind we seem to be moving towards – one that, for example, would promote higher-density development and more traditional, less automobile-dependent communities – is not incompatible with economic development. Let’s not get lost in “either/or” thinking when “both/and” thinking might be possible.

    My last comment is more for the entire community: I’m concerned that people in the comp plan revision process will downplay the comments and concerns of the majority of the people who turned out for the public meetings. These people cared and turned out, and let’s not forget what they said.

    June 3, 2007
  15. Anne Bretts said:

    Hello, Bill,

    I live out in one of the new developments near the soccer fields. We have bike trails and a mix of high and lower density housing at various price points. We are within walking distance of schools and parks and we have small back yards that open onto a common area with a drainage system that has created nice habitat for birds and other animals. We are adjacent to existing homes and neighborhoods. But to think there are enough people here to support a self-contained business district within walking distance is misguided. Yet people refer to this area as sprawl.
    The only good news about having more than 400 empty housing units on the market is that it sounds like there’s time to get the details worked out on a new plan and ordinances. I’d like the people who want to limit development to provide some real constructive evaluation of what works and what doesn’t and what needs to be changed. That’s not a challenge. I’d really like to have a discussion on what this recipe needs to be.
    Personally, I believe there should be reasonable limits on growth. I believe requiring signficantly more landscaping and tree planting in new areas would go a long way to making them “assimilate” better. The small, ticky-tacky boxes made after World War II look downright cute with hostas and lilacs and shade trees framing them. And I am old enough to remember how bare those kinds of developments looked when they were built.
    I realize people who came to the planning meetings deserve to have their say, but they don’t represent the majority, they represent 250 people in a town of 18,000 or so. It’s hard to believe that, I know. But it’s hard to stand up to a crowd. God knows I’m not a wallflower, but I wouldn’t have gone to that meeting. And I receive e-mails from people all the time saying they agree with me in these forumns but can’t summon the nerve to make a comment themselves. I don’t say I speak for the majority by any means. I speak for myself, just as the people at the meeting spoke only for themselves.
    I look forward to the Chamber officials and business leaders and environmentalists and bicyclists coming together to find some common ground. This is not a win/lose debate, but a conversation among friends and neighbors.
    (Finally, sorry for including the long list above. I meant to paste just the small towns list.)

    June 4, 2007
  16. David Ludescher said:

    To respond to some of the earlier questions: in discussing the Development Principles with the other Chamber board members, the consensus was that the principles did not speak to the Chamber’s mission – the promotion of a healthy business environment.

    One of the major challenges for Northfield in developing business principles is that some of our largest businesses and Northfield’s most attractive features are directly related to non-property tax paying entities.

    The Development Principles are a good start in describing what people (at that meeting) would want if they didn’t have to pay for it. But, as an earlier writer noted, of what value are development principles if they don’t actually guide the process of development?

    If, in situations where the development is by a public entity, such as the hospital or the school, and we are unable to implement these design principles because of cost or impracticality do we really want to make these principles the basis for decision-making?

    By my remarks at the Comp Plan meeting, it was my hope that an alternative voice could be heard before it was too late. To the credit of those in charge, not only has the Chamber’s voice been heard, but the Chamber has been directly and indirectly challenged to be more than just a critic. We accept the challenge. As another letter writer noted, we don’t have to reinvent the recipe. We only need to make sure that we have all of the ingredients. The Chamber, together with the other business organizations – the NDDC, NEC, and EDA – need to present a common theme of how businesses work for the common good of Northfield.

    June 4, 2007
  17. Peter Waskiw said:

    Anne
    I think you are over reacting to Bill’s point. I’m afraid your fear mongering. However, let’s move on. To follow you recipe analogy, taste really has nothing to do with it. I don’t think people are dictating “taste”. People will always choose what they want. If grocery stores in Northfield are too expensive people will drive to Faribault…a fact! Not because of taste but because of something else more important, financial considerations. Taste is only as good as one can afford. Economic Planning 101… You only have so much money in your wallet each week after the bills are paid.

    So how does this relate to principles, if we ignore a starting point and we don’t know what to achieve…it pretty clear what will happen.

    But I believe from my own experience, that planning is about determining a future state and how to get their. It’s about developing a strategy for the vision and seeking the means to achieve it. Because of the political process we have, there is an expectation that decision makers, disillusioned or not, are expected to make the best decision in the face of competing objectives, knowing all the issues and weighting up the options. Does this happen…..not always. Planners have the responsibility, if they live up to there code of ethics, to create a situation for decision makers to make the best decision.

    While we are at the ‘visioning’ stage of the process for the comprehensive plan, this debate about “principles” is important in two ways. First, understanding what a planning principle really is. Second, understand how to build upon a principle with objectives, strategies, measures, codes and ordinances. It is a multi layered process with a built in integrity if used properly. A process that requires constant maintenance, navigating, forecasting and sheer luck. It IS hard work to achieve a desire outcome based upon environmental, economic, social, transportation, cultural, infrastructure, and heritage objectives that everyone agrees upon.

    For example, let’s take it a step further, what about this desire outcome (or planning principle if you like)

    Economic Sustainability:
    A prosperous, productive and broad economy which reinforces the City strengths in educational facilities, commercial and business services, rural activities, health facilities, transportation infrastructure, while diversifying this base consistent with the City’s Character and it’s resources.

    Now, if the above sounds OK, what type of measures would need to be implemented to achieve Economic Sustainability?
    What about:
    1. Supporting development which adds to the economic benefits available through the education area and particularly to the Colleges.
    2. Supporting development that recognizes the contribution of natural resources, amenity and lifestyle values to the City’s economy and does not impact upon these values.

    One very simple desire outcome or planning principle, with two very different but simple measures related to Economic Sustainability based on known measurable resources, Education and Natural Resources.

    It’s one thing to know you have something, but it’s an entirely different thing to value it.

    June 4, 2007
  18. Betsey Buckheit said:

    This discussion hovers over a couple of topics.

    1. Vague principles/decision-driving regulations: The 2001 Comp Plan had the principles, but no revision to zoning and subdivision regulations took place. The parts of town generally considered “sprawlish” such as Anne’s soccer field neighborhood were planned and implemented under the 2001 Plan which embraced traditional neighborhood design. What the city couldn’t accomplish at that time, although the Planning Commission discussed it, were such things as integrating multi-family and single family within blocks (rather than pockets of each type), increasing density, encouraging a variety of lot sizes, and considering the topography of the land before the planning was done. The city was tied to its subdivision requirements which set minimum lot sizes and low density rules, but no mechanisms for encouraging or requiring other configurations. So the land use regulations are crucial, but…

    2. Business friendliness or not: I hope the planning commission will untangle the several issues here. There is procedural friendliness: are the land use regulations easy to understand, implement and do they help businesses meet the city’s development goals by streamlining the time and effort needed for approval of projects? There is the “where can businesses locate and grow?” question which the city needs to answer by designating places for commercial development (which may or may not be “mixed” with residential uses) which are also have well-planned transportation connections. There is also the design friendliness question: how much regulation of the looks of commercial buildings is desirable? It’s possible to ban “franchise architecture” or impose design guidelines of varying strictness – what level of regulation is business friendly?

    3. Chamber lobbying: The information I always wanted when I was on the Planning Commission was “what is the economic impact?” and we rarely it. How much would a large residential subdivision increase the tax base and how much would it cost the city in terms of increased services? What is the burden to businesses of design regulations? How much risk do businesses take when asking for zoning approvals (and how much can they stand)? What’s the difference in cost between redevelopment and new development? Help the City make smart choices by providing information about the business community and where their interaction with city regulations can be improved.

    Sorry for the long post, but I’ve been reading all your comments and thinking for a while.

    June 4, 2007
  19. Anne Bretts said:

    Thanks, Betsey, that’s the first time anyone has been able to tell me exactly what it is they don’t like about my neighborhood. We are not so far apart, after all. Although I like the design we have, I think we could have a good discussion and reach some agreement on solutions.
    Peter, I’m sorry if you felt I was over-reacting. I’ve been attending meetings like these for years. I don’t think I’m fear-mongering, just pointing out the need to seek out all voices and encourage them to speak, and to remember that a lot of people at a meeting isn’t the same as a majority of the community. That’s just a fact.
    As to my point about being uncomfortable, just using the word sprawl to describe my neighborhood sounds negative and critical and makes me feel there’s no point in entering the discussion. Living here is a choice, maybe one you wouldn’t make, and maybe one the city can’t support in the future. But it’s one that a lot of us enjoy.
    I thought about the use of the word “ticky tacky boxes” for that very reason, even though that was the pejorative name used for houses that used to be considered small and cheap but seem to be accceptable now.
    This isn’t going to be resolved soon, but we’ve had an interesting discussion.
    It’s an interesting discussion, and an important one.

    June 4, 2007
  20. kiffi summa said:

    I wonder……… How does one get the input of a citizen who has an opinion, but does not, for whatever reason, care to give that opinion in public ???????????
    Hire a mind reader ? Hold a seance ? Pass out wallet cards that say “You will lose your voice if you don’t vote !”

    June 6, 2007
  21. Anne Bretts said:

    Kiffi, I understand your position and agree in theory. But I have watched many school districts assume that a bond issue would pass because there was no opposition at public meetings, only to be disappointed at the polls. I have seen needed parents and teachers think that the school board hasn’t listened because they have closed schools when everyone at the public hearing opposed the closing.
    All I’m saying is that the people at a public meeting represent only the people at the public meeting. The people who are happy with the way Northfield is and like their neighborhoods and business options see no reason to come to meetings to fight for the status quo. In this case there is no public vote, so the most vocal group likely will get its way. Just don’t confuse that with a mandate of the majority.

    June 6, 2007
  22. Tracy Davis said:

    It may not be a mandate of the majority, but whatever input we receive is the best information we have about public opinion on the comp plan issues. We can’t very well note, document, and incorporate feedback we’re NOT getting.

    The Planning Commission, city staff, and a very dedicated group of citizen volunteers have worked very hard to get the word out and take the word in, in as many ways as possible. Obviously not everyone’s comfortable speaking at a public meeting, but if they’re also not comfortable making a phone call (to staff, commissioners, City councilors, Community Outreach volunteers), or writing a letter, or sending an email, or leaving a comment on the NorthfieldPlan.org website, then I’m afraid we just won’t hear from them. That’s regrettable, but I’m not willing to be apologetic about making decisions based on the people we DID hear from.

    As I’ve always told my kids, if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain about the government. This is even more true at the local level.

    June 6, 2007
  23. David Ludescher said:

    A couple of comments regarding citizen input:

    First, we are not designing a Comprehensive Plan based solely upon citizen input. It is only one factor to be considered.

    Second, the people who showed up are not a representative sample of people. If we governed solely by the people who showed up at public meetings and requested that their will be done, governance would dissolve into appeasement.

    Third, some people and organizations, such as the Chamber, organize and have spokespersons who speak for a large number of people.

    Fourth, public officials always have the responsibility to ensure that the common good is served. Even if all of my children voted for ice cream for the main dish, the answer would rightly be, “No.”.

    Fifth, if public officials are aware that there are disenfranchised individuals and organizations, they have the duty to ensure that they speak the voice that is not being spoken.

    Sixth, the same view spoken 20 times does not make it more powerful or reasonable than one view spoken once with clarity and vision.

    I don’t think anyone could honestly say that the people speaking at the first public forum were a representative sample of the citizens. The trick now is to reach the silent voices so that the best decision can be made. We all want what is best. So, let’s take what is best from that one night and combine it with what is good and right from the silent voices to come up with the common good.

    June 6, 2007
  24. Tracy Davis said:

    Dave, I agree with everything you said — up until the last paragraph.

    What I need to know is, how is anyone supposed to hear voices that are silent? Without their sanity being called into question, I mean?

    If a person or organization claims to represent the “silent voices”, I need to be shown that their hearing is that much better than mine, and/or be convinced by quantitative evidence that the opinions the person or organization espouse aren’t simply their own.

    If 1 silent voice represents 10 other silent voices, how many silent voices does 1 audible voice represent?

    June 6, 2007
  25. Tracy Davis said:

    Dave, the next step is that you and I need to get together to discuss “the common good” and how best to determine what that is. (I’m serious! I have a very strong visceral feeling that our positions aren’t nearly as far apart as they might appear.)

    Almost every political decision can be seen as holding a place on a continuum between individual rights on one end, and the common good on the other. At a local level, it’s much easier to see how we (the people) are the government, that our input and choices make a difference. And at the local level we’re in a much better place to ensure that we balance individual rights and the common good in a respectful and responsible way.

    June 6, 2007
  26. David Ludescher said:

    I can think of 4 different organizational voices that had spoken previously of which no mention is made in the principles developed.

    First, Mr. Waskiw spoke of the existing Comp Plan. There is no mention of that Plan -either its strengths or its weaknesses. Second, the NIC did a fairly comprehensive transportation plan recently. Third, the EDA recently adopted an Economic Development Plan. Fourth, the Chamber has passed some resolutions detailing ecomonic initiatives, and I have spoken for the Chamber.

    These voices, 2 public and 2 private, don’t seem to have much representation to date.

    Before we tell Mayflower Hill and trailer park residents that they represent an eyesore, and before we tell Highway 3 merchants that more of them are unwelcome, shouldn’t we at least ask for their opinion, even if they didn’t attend the meeting? Shouldn’t ask developers why people buy ticky-tacky housing, and why businesses prefer to be on a highway before we ban what the market is selling? If you want quantitative and qualitative evidence of what people want, look at what they are buying.

    These people who we see everywhere, and whom we call friends, may be silent, but they are not invisible. There is a huge difference.

    Ironically, the silent do not need to speak if we listen to the “invisible hand” to which Adam Smith refers. Is there anything developmental obstacle which prevents developers from developing housing and industries which mimic “old Northfield”? No. Is there a reason it is not being done now? Yes. There is not enough ecomonic incentive to support it.

    That is the reality with which we have to work as we move forward. No amount of wishing, even 250 wishes, will change this reality.

    June 6, 2007
  27. Tracy Davis said:

    Dave, I can assure you that these voices have been heard, noted, and the definitely will be referenced heavily in the new Comp Plan. We’re just not far enough along in the public input process for that info to be showing up yet. After spending six years on the EDA, and working with the consultants through the development of the Ec. Dev. plan, I know how important the information in that plan is, and it is to be hoped that the implementation of the revised Comp Plan will make it more, not less, feasible to accomplish the goals and address the concerns raised in the Ec. Dev. Plan. I’m less sure about the NIC’s transportation plan. Part of the problem with transportation here is that decisions are so heavily dependent on bodies outside of Northfield (County, State), with different goals and priorities. But the Comp Plan chapter on transportation will draw heavily on previous work.

    What people do isn’t necessarily indicative of what they’d want if given real choices. Developers are predetermining what the market will bear, based on their convenience, their own economies of scale, and what sold most recently in Burnsville. People buy ticky-tacky housing because they aren’t offered much else in their price range. Personally, I don’t believe Northfield would be one whit worse off, economically or otherwise, if residential developers just QUIT their rapacious spec-home stuff, and people worked directly with a contractor to build a house they really wanted within their budget. Part of what makes the pre-WWII housing interesting is that most of it wasn’t developed in pods and tracts; lots were purchased and houses were built by individuals for their own use, not by speculators trying to make a buck by selling the least for the most.

    Business prefer to be on the highway for several reasons. Two of the most prominent are that More square footage is available for less than downtown; and some businesses operate on an auto-dependent model (fast-food drive-thrus, oil changes, etc.) which requires that kind of access.

    In and of itself, those aren’t problems. The problem is that the highway-commercial development hasn’t been done as well as it could or should be. The reality is that everything is designed, but not everything is designed well. Good design doesn’t necessarily mean increased cost (although sometimes it does); it just requires thought and intention. I’m surprised by how many people seem to object to that idea.

    To quote the introduction to the Economic Development plan,

    [Northfield] . . . boasts a number of assets and a unique character that is absent from many of America’s small towns and suburbs… Northfield has defied the odds in maintaining both its own employment base and its downtown core. These advantages, however, are no guarantee that growth will occur in a way that is economically viable.. . .[This] plan is a response to the leadership’s desire to make economic development a priority while balancing the community’s desire to protect its identity as a “freestanding” community and maintain its sense of place.

    Most importantly, though, this plan is intended to sound an alarm (emphasis in original). Northfield is an exceptional community, easily deserving of its reputation as one of America’s most appealing small cities. Preserving the city’s quality of place, however, will come at a cost…If this situation is to be resolved, given the competitive environment, public sector involvement will need to be a factor. . . .

    I hope that’s at least part of what the Comp Plan will be about.

    June 6, 2007
  28. Peter Waskiw said:

    Tracy
    Does the following Draft Development Principles, rev 2, # 3, relate to all land uses and development types (commercial, industrial, residential, service, office, mixed use, highway retail, etc)?

    Perhaps for the sake of argument, how would this connect to Northfield’s Economic Development Plan, THEN connect to the Future Land Use Map designation, THEN connect to the subdivision ordinance, THEN connect to the zoning ordinance.

    It states:

    3. The preference for accommodating future growth is in infill locations, then redevelopment opportunities, and then on the edge of existing developed areas.

    The existing pattern of development has been to grow outward into the edge of existing development or fringe areas. This pattern of development is compromising the rural character at the edges of the Community. This also creates a disconnected growth pattern that is auto-oriented, while increasing the demand for infrastructure and Community services.

    • Priority areas for future development will be identified for all three areas (infill, redevelopment and greenfield).
    • When new growth occurs on the edge of the Community it will be done with great care so as not to compromise the rural landscape or the small town character.

    June 6, 2007
  29. Anne Bretts said:

    Tracy, I really wonder what leads you to believe people don’t have choices now and need city officials to determine their options? Developers didn’t tell me where to live or what to buy. I have lived in old houses, apartments in historic buildings and I loved them. I looked at probably 30 housing units, old and new, and dozens more online, before choosing where we live — near the soccer field — for a variety of reasons.
    As for this nostalgia for how things used to be built, people often built their own homes or families built a large home and then smaller ones nearby as their chldren married. The converted homes to apartments with inadequate exits and wiring. Fact is many old homes still have substandard wiring and plumbing, dangerous lead paint and pipes, are energy hogs and have polluting wood fireplaces.
    Zoning laws often were developed exactly to bring some order to the chaos you see as charming diversity. Old photos show houses standing on bare lots, just as new houses do now. Again the nostalgia, and years of tree and vegetation growth often clouds the stark reality of older developments. I’m wondering what year is the cut-off, the year when everything after that became detestable sprawl. I’m not being sarcastic, I’d really like to know.
    I remember the cute little Cape Cods when they were called ugly little boxes. I drive around town and see some boring old houses and some boring new ones. Everything old isn’t historic. Sometimes it’s just old.
    Doing individual homes with a contractor now sounds lovely, but it would force even more residents out of the market. Just doing minor changes from the base plan can add thousands to a home’s cost.
    There is quite a bit of variety in the housing on the streets surrounding us. Our short street has less exterior diversity than I would like (OK, no diversity) but we all are older couples who are traveling and hanging out with family and we aren’t that interested. The interiors are just what we want, and we don’t have to mow or shovel.
    Betsey Buckheit laid out some of her issues with my neighborhood (above) and while we don’t agree, we’re not that far apart.
    As for getting information about us, you can talk to Realtors about what is selling and what has sold over the past several years — both here and in comparable communities. They can tell you exactly who is buying and what they want. If there’s a burning desire for the style homes you love and a lack of inventory, they’d know it.
    Finally, calling people’s homes eyesores and sprawl simply isn’t helpful in furthering an open and receptive discussion. Thanks, Betsey, for being open to other opinions.
    And David is right about the city being unable to force people to buy what they don’t want. Several communities have tried the town center and urban center plans. Some have worked and others haven’t. The retail is particularly tricky and challenging.
    We get the fact that you don’t want us here, really we do. Perhaps that’s why the retail sales figures show that so many people are choosing to shop elsewhere. Why would people shop where they so clearly aren’t wanted?

    June 6, 2007
  30. Tracy Davis said:

    What is now known as “sprawl” has been quantified and has defining characteristics (view a couple of examples here and here – selected almost at random).

    Since I’m a firm believer in not reinventing the wheel, I’ll use someone else’s words:

    The battle against sprawl is not a battle against economic growth — it’s a fight for growth that’s done right. As these examples suggest, “smart growth” that bolsters a community’s economy and overall quality of life happens in real-world cities and towns all over the nation. All it takes is a commitment to figure out what your community values in its physical environment, where you’d like to go, and what development plans would reflect these values. At its root, smart growth is about process — your town will need to wrestle with many issues related to balancing development with enhancing quality of life: Where should growth occur? How should it take place? Which places should be off-limits, and how should they be preserved? Above all, what does smart growth look like?

    You may quarrel with the specifics, but to quarrel with the overall idea of trying to “do growth right” seems rather self-defeating.

    June 6, 2007
  31. Ross Currier said:

    A couple of (actually six) comments regarding citizen input:

    First, we are not designing a Comprehensive Plan based solely upon citizen input. It is only one factor to be considered.

    However, personally I’d rank citizen input (at least) right up there with professional staff and hired consultants.

    Second, the people who showed up are not a representative sample of people. If we governed solely by the people who showed up at public meetings and requested that their will be done, governance would dissolve into appeasement.

    However, it has been a highly regarded system throughout history in communities that are called democracies.

    Third, some people and organizations, such as the Chamber, organize and have spokespersons who speak for a large number of people.

    However, it is possible that the so-called membership of such groups are mentally unengaged from some topics and the statements of the leadership have little to do with the will of the group.

    Fourth, public officials always have the responsibility to ensure that the common good is served. Even if all of my children voted for ice cream for the main dish, the answer would rightly be, “No.”.

    However, last week there was a study that said ice cream was bad for you and this week there’s a study that says ice cream is good for you. Asking citizens for their opinion on ice cream can be a valid step in a decision-making process.

    Fifth, if public officials are aware that there are disenfranchised individuals and organizations, they have the duty to ensure that they speak the voice that is not being spoken.

    However, as business people will tell you, time is money, and public officials also have a responsibility to keep processes moving forward.

    Sixth, the same view spoken 20 times does not make it more powerful or reasonable than one view spoken once with clarity and vision.

    However, 20 people choosing the same candidate is 20 votes.

    We have worked hard to take what is best from those that speak and made numerous attempts to hear from those that don’t speak. It time to recognize the input exercises and development principles for what they are…guideposts for the real work…and focus on what (or who) actually shapes the experiences of would-be economic developers in our community.

    June 7, 2007
  32. Ross Currier said:

    The 4 different organizational voices that had spoken previously have been included in the work on the revision of the comprehensive plan and zoning ordinances.

    First, the Planning Commission spent last summer, setting aside time at the end of their every meeting, going through the existing comprehensive plan chapter by chapter, revising, clarifying, and, quite frankly, summarizing the key points. The goal was to retain the values expressed by the previous group while making it a more useful tool.

    Second, the NIC did a fairly comprehensive transportation plan almost a decade ago. In my work on revising the existing chapter on transportation, my favorite topic, I heavily referenced the NIC plan, as well as two or three other plans over the past ten years that all advise the City to do the same things. Ironically, in two meetings with the Chamber on Highway 19, I distributed my summary of the these plans which included the NIC plan.

    Third, the recently adopted Economic Development Plan was an essential document in the consultant’s overview of the community. In fact, Councilor Pokorney, in particular, has worked to try to tie the E D Plan and the Comprehensive Plan together as we move forward.

    Fourth, the Chamber has passed some resolutions detailing economic initiatives which, to my knowledge, have not been forwarded to the Planning Commission. If they discuss land use or the design and implementation of ordinances, they would be of great interest.

    I don’t think that we should never tell anyone that their home or business is an eyesore. I think that we should at least share the design guidelines that have created a sense of place that appears to have attracted and has continued to attract people to our community.

    Even more important, when we find that practices such as building cul de sacs, bringing infrastructure to cornfields and using a zoning code that results in less dense residential and commercial development all substantially increase the tax burden on businesses, we have a responsibility to at least question those practices.

    Let’s look at the comprehensive plan, the zoning ordinances, the elected and appointed officials and the professional staff and find where we can make specific changes that would contribute to increasing Northfield’s business-friendliness.

    June 7, 2007
  33. kiffi summa said:

    Strangely enough, I don’t see any diversity of comment here…where are all these people with opinions that have no place to offer their opinion (although there are at least 4 other options than public meetings).

    The same people are arguing their same positions: Dave is arguing Chamber/highway, Tracy is arguing plan commission/reason, Anne is arguing her professional experience/personal choice, Peter is arguing professional standards as a planner………..

    Maybe there are some people who like to speak in public/airways/publications, written or electronic, because they are participants in THE process; then there are those who are silent and may just feel things never go their way.

    But I feel compelled to correct one thing Tracy said: Tracy, if you can find a rent on the highway that is less than the rents in the downtown, I’d like to know where, so I can send the next prospective tenant who gasps at the rent/taxes, in the DT, to that highway location!

    Seems to me that parts of this discussion are exacerbating the old DT versus hwy.3 debate? Is that what this is about? Let’s not go there in this space. The PR says the Chamber and the DT/ NDDC are working together at this point in time. Is that so Dave, if you are speaking for the Chamber, as you say?

    Bottom line: how about hearing from someone who doesn’t want to offer their opinion in public/ After all, “this” is just a little tiny “public” ??????

    June 7, 2007
  34. David Ludescher said:

    Perhaps the Planning Commission members could explain if and how the draft principles may be altered and how those principles will be used to create the Comp Plan.

    Are the principles the keystone or a cornerstone?

    If the Chamber provided alterations to the document how would those be considered? Are opinions like Peter’s, Anne’s, and Kiffi’s going to be considered? Are they going to be one voice or an alternative?

    I sense a certain amount of protection of the docment principles (which is understandable, but not necessarily the best course of action). For example, Peter has raised issues regarding content and understanding; Anne has raised issues of personal freedom. These are valid.

    Are we wasting our time blogging or what types of actions would “move the process forward”?

    June 7, 2007
  35. Betsey Buckheit said:

    Housing choice, housing policy & sprawl: As a personal choice, Anne’s housing choice makes sense, as do other individual choices to purchase a large Mayflower Hill home or my small Arts and Crafts bungalow or a condo at the Crossing. If you have 3 cars and a boat, you probably want more garage space than my 1 car garage can offer. Older homes have repair and maintenance issues along with their individuality; newer homes tend to be more visually uniform but have up to date kitchens. Etc.

    I think we must be careful NOT to say that the people who have chosen to live in our new neighborhoods are themselves somehow flawed in thought or deed.

    But as a matter of public policy (and the common good), I believe we have to ask about sustainability. Suburban style development with large lots and long setbacks, lots of paved driveway and street space, etc. consumes land and creates environmental issues that other kinds of development do not. So, when we ask what kind of development we want in Northfield, I think (based on the input we do have) we say that we would like to try to plan for growth which is more conservative – as in, conserves land, natural resources, and city fiscal resources.

    Other Plans: Knowing that the city had been updating its water plan, sanitary sewer plan, etc., I asked Dan Olson for a list of less than comprehensive plans the city was writing or rewriting and he gave me this information: Transportation Plan (last done in 1998, incorporated by reference into 2001 Comp Plan) is to be started in the Fall, new Water Plan is done, Sanitary Sewer Plan is nearing completion, Stormwater Management to be done by end of summer, and a consultant has been hired to help prepare a Park Master Plan incorporating the Greenway Corridors planning. Plus the Economic Development Plan already noted.

    Most of what has been discussed about the Comp Plan is the Land Use Plan; these other plans can (and should) replace relevant chapters in the Comp Plan (after careful checking to avoid conflict).

    June 7, 2007
  36. Jerry Bilek said:

    The book Suburban Nation addresses the sprawl issue quite well.

    “Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk are at the forefront of the New Urbanism movement, and in “Suburban Nation” they assess sprawl’s costs to society, be they ecological, economic, aesthetic, or social.”

    They also argue for better urban planning. Homes with porches on the front, not garages. Homes set on the front of the lot, narrower streets bring the neighbors together.

    Poor urban planning has compromised our land use. In the podcast, David mentions Northfield’s lack of available land. If we plan better, we should use it more wisely.

    I am optimistic that we can maintain the good qualities of Northfield especially the downtown while we foster business growth. Where I disagree with the Chamber position David presented is the call for no regulation of any kind. I believe this could be detrimental to downtown. I know many of my customers come to Northfield for the charm of downtown. They regularly ask for restaraunt recommendations that move beyond applebees. They want coffee from GBM or the Hideaway not Caribou.

    June 7, 2007
  37. Griff Wigley said:

    Ross, I’ve fixed the formatting on your post #32 above to make it clear which are your words and which are words of others that you’re commenting on. You’re welcome. 😉

    June 7, 2007
  38. Griff Wigley said:

    Kiffi wrote:

    “Strangely enough, I don’t see any diversity of comment here..”

    While this is an interesting discussion and I’m pleased to see it happening, it’s really sophisticated. Y’all can speak to this issue at a high level and that’s intimidating, even though you’re nice folks and talking civil. 😉

    And if I’m intimidated, there are probably a few others who are, too.

    I’d like to see a straw poll on these issues that both educates people and allows for comments. A straw poll is a lot less intimidating than speaking at a public hearing or weighing into an online conversation. And it’s less difficult than filling out open-ended comment cards because it’s more structured and educational.

    June 7, 2007
  39. Peter Waskiw said:

    Straw poll sounds good to me. Perhaps even a weighted set of statements distilled from the various statements.

    ps..can we also get the questions answered that were asked during the above discussion? I know I had several directed towards Planning Commission members who will actually have the PRIVILEGE of speaking to them when they become approved.

    June 7, 2007
  40. kiffi summa said:

    I sincerely wish everyone would get over being “intimidated”….just us folks out there……no need for intimidation!

    On a cultural note, how come in MN some folks who might be thought too overweight can wear shorts, but feel intimidated about speaking publicly? I would have thought physical confidence and vocal confidence would march along together……..

    June 7, 2007
  41. Tracy Davis said:

    Peter, my understanding is that the draft principles are broad, sweeping generalities, and it’s too early in the process to have a definitive answer to your question.

    However, I’ll take a stab at some prognostications based on the discussions that have taken place thus far. I would assume that if the City develops guidelines that express a preference for infill and redevelopment over greenfield, the *preference* might apply equally to all uses. The Planning Commission is moving toward ordinances that are form-based rather than segregated by uses, so it’s possible that the end result of our plan and ordinance changes may make your question moot. However, infill and redevelopment locations will always have a set of challenges associated with them that may make one type of development more feasible than others.

    I hope that helps….some.

    June 8, 2007
  42. David Ludescher said:

    I make my living reading, writing, and speaking. I did not want to get up at the Comp Plan meeting to speak. But, I felt that it was my duty as Chamber president to do so.

    I am grateful that Locally Grown not only acknowledged that my voice was there, but welcomed a discussion on an “alternative view”. I am of the sincere conviction that the reason for the invitation was not to afford an opportunity to discredit the views, nor to engage in an academic discussion, but rather to gather additional viewpoints so that the Comp Plan can represent the best for Northfield.

    I can fully understand why the vast majority of the residents do not want to participate nor speak. It would be both disingenuous and unfair to suggest that the Comp Plan should be based primarily upon public input, and to suggest that the individuals present at that meeting were representative of what the public wants.

    I’m not sure how Griff’s suggestion of a straw poll would work. But, if the Planning Commission is interested in determining whether or not the people present were a representative sample of Northfield’s opinion, some additional inquiry may be appropriate.

    If the Planning Commission wants a representative view of the business community, you are getting it right now. That is my duty (unfortunately). What the business community is telling the Planning Commission is that we don’t see how Northfield’s business interests figure into the Comp Plan for Northfield. Nor, do we see, as Peter pointed out, how those views will be implemented.

    June 8, 2007
  43. v summa said:

    David… discounting all the rhetoric (yours and the rest of the LG contributors) you last wrote

    “If the Planning Commission wants a representative view of the business community, you are getting it right now. That is my duty (unfortunately). What the business community is telling the Planning Commission is that we don’t see how Northfield’s business interests figure into the Comp Plan for Northfield. Nor, do we see, as Peter pointed out, how those views will be implemented.”

    So I’m asking… if you’d define “business community”? I certainly do not feel represented by your remarks, I Own a keystone building in the “business Community” and have never been in a discussion with you and others where the concept you preach was the consensus you refer to as the Business community’s desire.

    On the limited input you decry as fragmented and not representative of the “business community”… my read of the public comments made at the two Comp Plan meetings is that the DT and its traditions were vital to the future of the community…. both business and residential and to guarantee those traditional means are maintained in future development of the community… is a major goal of the citizen preferred Comp Plan.

    Indirectly, you present your personal interests as reflecting a well discussed issue in a public forum of the “business community”. If that’s the result of a poll taken of Chamber members, then I suggest you give us demographics and dates of that discussion. If you’re representing an unknown preference of Chamber members… than it is only reasonable that you point out the numbers of and places of business of those members so that readers can sense how broad (or narrow) the Chamber membership and its point of view might be… if indeed it is a broad membership point of view you represent.

    Unfortunately, for your ideals, the text of past Comp plans as well as all recent CP discussions, (1998 and 2007) is too preserve the values and the sense of place and space that has been Northfield.

    While most everyone recognizes change will occur, those who stand behind the values of Northfield traditions and the text of its Comp Plan, want to insure against any violent or subversive overthrow of those values. Emotions and rhetoric both get out of balance when values are discussed. Some of those perspectives deserve a place in the government’s discussion of the community’s development. Others do not.

    And while emotions from some may run high in favor of sprawl on the one hand… my sense is that when it has all been leveled into your style of taxable development… most of the people who might agree with you in principle today… will look back at the ravaged community and say: “what happened? How did the Plan commission and the City Council be so short sighted as to allow the destruction of all that Northfield once had, just so it could become “anyplace”?

    MY VIEW: Some parts of the Comp Plan (like the US Constitution) should be off limits for various generations to tamper with. As the wheel goes around, it is all a certainty that if we lose what we’ve got today… someday we’ll all regret it.

    The real challenge is for your “business community” to modify its goals to meet the standards set by Northfield. The challenge for the elected officials is to see the light, in spite of the dollars signs you wave… and make the adjustments as they best fit the overarching plan. The challenge for those who attend and or participate in the public discussion, is to value change, celebrate diversity and hold on to the values that make a place special

    June 8, 2007
  44. David Ludescher said:

    Griff is probably right in suggesting that we are nearing the end of this part of the discussion. Legitimate alternative viewpoints have been expressed. It is now the responsiblity of the Planning Commission to decide if the Development Principles will be accepted in total, internally revised, or additional comment, written or oral can be submitted.

    I will clarify a valid point raised by Victor. I have been speaking in my capacity as Chamber President without specific Board approval. However, we have had a Board discussions informally clarifying that I could and should speak for the Chamber. The comments that I have made at the meeting have been endorsed by the Board, who speaks for the Chamber membership in general. The Board recognizes that individual Chamber members may have differences of opinion with the Board’s position. They are free to express those opinions to the Board, and to request that the Board change its position.

    On a philosophical and personal note, I share Victor’s perspective that Constitution-like principles should prevail. The Constitution declares that we are all free. Government restrictions on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness cannot be justified by a simple will of the majority, no matter how well intentioned. Rather, the restrictions must be deemed necessary to preserve order, without which there could be no freedom.

    The Chamber’s mission is narrow – a healthy business environment. An official, even if tacit, admission by the Planning Commission that a healthy business environment is important for Northfield’s overall health would be an important step in creating a COMPRENSIVE Plan.

    June 8, 2007
  45. Tracy Davis said:

    Dave, I KNEW we’d agree on things eventually. 🙂
    A healthy business environment is implicit in the idea of a balanced, free-standing (i.e. not “bedroom”) community; I believe that there will be some explicit statements to this effect, or references to it, in the finished version of the revised Comp Plan.

    Does that satisfy the Chamber?

    June 8, 2007
  46. David Ludescher said:

    It will not satisfy the Chamber to be promised to have some references in the Comp Plan unless we change the “Development Principles” to something like “Summary of Community Meeting”.

    It’s still not clear to me what is data input into the Comp Plan. If the Development Principles are intended to be what its name implies, then the Chamber requests that the principles be modified to include our mission as an important development principle. I have heard that the principles are intended to be business-friendly, or least not business-unfriendly. But, I have read the principles multiple times and the tone is most definitely not something the Chamber can support in its current form. Nor can the Chamber simply hope that the tone changes in the Comp Plan.

    If the tone is not the intended tone, then let’s change it now. Alternatively, let’s keep the present document’s contents, and change its name to the suggested name, and develop a more broad-based “Development Principles”.

    June 8, 2007
  47. Anne Bretts said:

    I just read the principles again and my concern is that they are recommending contradictory and/or unrealistic concepts.
    Residents are complaining about having rental units in the middle of their neighborhoods, but the principles demand mixing uses in the same block. Small retail centers are required, even as the downtown is struggling while drawing from all the surrounding neighborhoods.
    I can imagine the outcry if developers bought up small old houses for redevelopment as apartments or new housing, as they have done in other communities. And what would happen if the Ole Store owners bought several other lots and converted more of that neighborhood to a business district, with the accompanying noise and parking.
    Finally, there simply isn’t enough land downtown to accommodate many of the businesses that are on Highway 3, even if they wanted to be downtown.
    Is the answer that the city has no growth at all? And how will downtown survive if it can’t with the population here now?
    It’s ironic that the document decries big box buildings, but the biggest of the big boxes are the high school, middle school, elementary school and NCRC — all government built for the same economic reasons private businesses are building big boxes. The new soccer field, which everyone is hailing (and which I like, too), is the big box version of a park, as is the pool. Why not small soccer fields in each neighborhood so kids can walk to play only with their friends in the neighborhood? Instead we have hundreds of parents driving kids across town to run on grass.
    So we should force businesses to take on the financial burdens that we refuse to carry as taxpayers?
    I’m not opposed to smart-growth. I see wonderful examples all the time — and others that don’t work.
    I agree that this discussion probably has run its course, but with nearly 4 dozen comments, no one has been able to explain how these principles will work in the real world.

    June 8, 2007
  48. kiffi summa said:

    A question for Tracy: I just looked at the city website for the comp plan, and there were only about 8 comments there. Somewhere the term “recent comments” was used, but their dates went back quite a way.

    Is this the total of the comments received on the city website or only the most recent?

    How would the Planning Commission weigh the 47 comments on LG as opposed to those on the city website? Are the LG comments more a discussion/argument about the writers opinions, and the ones on the city website more representative? Although at least three names on the city website often comment here.

    Just wondering……

    June 9, 2007
  49. Tracy Davis said:

    Kiffi – the comments on the NorthfieldPlan.org site are ALL the comments that have been received via the website to date, and there aren’t many of them.

    ALL comments received, including the dialog here on LG, will be read by the consultants, the Planning Commission, and City staff. No precedence or preference is given to comments here vs. the NorthfieldPlan site. I don’t know how the consultants can tabulate general comments, since they don’t follow a form, but they’ll be included somehow.

    June 9, 2007
  50. Paul Fried said:

    Thanks to David for offering his remarks, and to Griff, Tracy, Ross and many others for the continued forum for discussion here.

    Some observations:

    1. David, your remark about your kids asking for ice cream as a main dish, as an analogy, in comment 23, could seem a bit condescending to some groups who are participating in the process in good faith, with legitimate, good ideas. If one seeks sustainability (which includes long-term economics) but it isn’t attractive enough in the short-term to some in the Chamber, will one be compared to the child who wants an ice cream cone for the main dish, and one’s input therefore dismissed as childish? Or will those in the Chamber who seek free-market short-term economic gains above long-term (sustainable?) goals be compared to the child’s wish for immediate gratification? It’s a strong analogy, potentially offensive either way, and perhaps it short-circuits real advancement in dialogue on substantive issues.

    2. After making the early comment (in response #5) regarding the drop in retail sales to 49%, David, you make some remarks about Northfield being either a bedroom community, a special bedroom community, or a total community. You describe total community as one that

    has to balance visual, intellectual, and spiritual attractiveness with the utilitarian realities of price, value, and practicality.

    – Some of the sustainability advocates (in favor of an long-term economic and environmentally-friendly vision) might agree but define terms differently. They’d want to see us work toward producing more of our electricity, food and other products locally, and living closer to where we work and shop and go to school, etc. This is the sort of thing that you seem to claim isn’t economically feasible.

    – Some of the free-market-invisible-hand advocates might want to see us throw in the towel quickly to those utilitarian realities, and letting WalMart in ASAP, so that we could ship off more of our wealth to the Walton family, and keep more of those Socialist Chinese workers employed. Not necessarily you, David, but some.

    Now if you really believe in total economic freedom and in trusting the invisible hand, then you simply cross over to the dark side and you let WalMart in, and that’s that. Watch the Chamber squirm and appoint new leadership if there’s any hint of that coming.

    3. David, in response #26 here, you write,

    Ironically, the silent do not need to speak if we listen to the “invisible hand” to which Adam Smith refers. Is there anything developmental obstacle which prevents developers from developing housing and industries which mimic “old Northfield”? No. Is there a reason it is not being done now? Yes. There is not enough ecomonic incentive to support it.

    I think this pays more attention to your friend Adam Smith and his analogy of the invisible hand than it does to economic realities. Consider the Cooper MINI, the Volkswagen Slugbug, and the small Honda and Toyota hybrids. They were very hot, consumers were on waiting lists to buy ’em, and American automakers have been very slugish in responding (still don’t have American sub-compact hybrids). American automakers know they can make a larger profit on SUV’s, even if there’s a growing sub-compact hybrid market and waiting lines. Adam Smith’s invisible hand might not be voicing the opinion of a silent majority there. The market has too much inertia, or momentum, or whatever you might call it, in certain trends, and isn’t responding quickly enough to what consumers want.

    Same is true of housing. It’s often not about what consumers want, but what developers are willing to build, and how they’re able to make the most profit. If a developer has a team that can throw together spec houses fast, if they’re used to it, and if they can sell them eventually and make a profit, consumers will have to buy what’s available. The genius of the smaller house is great, as is the smaller footprint, but if developers don’t make these available, consumers won’t have the choice. If there’s no supply for what they really want, they’ll eventually buy what’s available (lesson from the Russian economy’s playbook, and lines for buying toilet paper, shoes, or most anything else).

    Same is true of mortgages. If mortgage bankers sat down with young couples and advised them to buy smaller houses so that, if they have children and one wants to stay home for a year with the kids, they’ll still be able to make the mortgage payments — we might have more smaller homes being built in town. Instead couples give bankers their financial information, banks tell them they can afford a certain size mortgage, and many young couples are impressed at their economic muscle. Only to find they both have to keep working to make their mortgage payments if they have a child.

    If anything, the invisible hand is not about the silent majority of consumers and their will, but about how much people can be convinced to hand over as much of their income as possible. The economic incentive that’s lacking is that there isn’t enough profit in certain things for the market to offer them as options.

    This doesn’t mean the silent majority is expressing its opinion through the market. Sometimes it just means they’re going along with the status quo. Some dads might like the earth-friendly hybrid, but when their kids graduate and dads decide to buy the kid a vehichle, some salesperson will convince a few of them that the kid will be safer out there in this SUV world if they’re driving an SUV–and there are rebates and low interest rates to boot. That’s about market momentum, not about what the consumer really wants.

    Too often, talk of the “invisible hand” of the market seems to be slick way for some folks to wash their hands of responsibility for the role they play in shaping the forces at play in the market.

    So David, I think you mix economic incentive and consumer preference in ways that blur important distinctions.

    But I love that Adam Smith stuff. Gotta hand it to ya. (O;

    June 10, 2007
  51. David Ludescher said:

    Paul – I don’t think that I can respond to everything in this forum. Maybe we can have coffee sometime.

    The Chamber’s main concern is that the development principles not be so restrictive that businesses can’t keep pace with their industries, or other towns. If the intent is to produce alternative industries rather than just restrict present ones, then that principle needs to be more clearly defined, including an honest assessment of whether that is possible.

    On a personal note, many of those asking for these principles fail to honestly assess the social impact of and personal motivations of these principles. For example, townhouse restrictions are intended to create “nice” communities. They do so at a cost to diversity and freedom. Many of those asking for restrictive principles want all new development to look like their neighborhood on the theory that their neighborhood is how Northfield should look.

    A good plan would have the characteristic that it is fair to all, not just “old Northfielders”. It will take some work to remove that implicit, and in many instances, explicit bias in this plan.

    June 11, 2007
  52. Griff Wigley said:

    Here’s a sample question for a straw poll that A) gets people thinking/help informs them; B) gives people an opportunity to weigh in on the issue that’s NOT intimidating; C) encourages comments.

    I think it would be pretty easy to come up with 10 or so questions for the poll and conduct it electronically. Links to the straw poll could be placed here and on N.org, Chamber, NDDC and other websites, with a deadline for participation. Responses can then easily be aggregated into a spreadsheet and a pie chart report generated, along with all comments.

    Example Straw Poll Question:

    Some people think that the commercial development along south Hwy 3 in the past five years has been the kind of economic development that’s good for Northfield and area citizens. [more explanation here]

    Others disagree and think that [more explanation here]

    Question 1: How well-informed are you on this issue? (check 1 to 5, 1=very well informed, 5=not at all informed)

    Question 2: Rank your level of agreement (check 1 to 5, 1=strongly agree, 5=strongly disagree) with this sentence: “the commercial development along south Hwy 3 in the past five years has been the kind of economic development that’s good for Northfield and area citizens”

    Comments: What comments do you have about this item that you’d like the Planning Commission to read?

    June 11, 2007
  53. Ross Currier said:

    David Ludescher, President of the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce wrote:

    “The Chamber’s main concern is that the development principles not be so restrictive that businesses can’t keep pace with their industries, or other towns.”

    For those of you who haven’t visited http://www.northfieldplan.org, the principles mentioned by David are listed below:

    1. The small town character will be enhanced.

    Northfield’s built environment is defined by a distinct land use pattern and architectural character; this character is cherished by local residents and distinguishes the Community in a regional context.

    • Northfield’s character will be defined by “Old Northfield” that includes the downtown core and older historic neighborhoods.
    • Future areas for growth and development will reflect the essential elements of “Old Northfield” with respect to the form and pattern of development.
    • New development and redevelopment will be sensitive to pedestrians in terms of scale and walkability.
    • Mixed-use will be the preferred development approach when accommodating retail and office uses.
    • Diverse job and housing opportunities will be created to support the Community’s diversity, which contributes to establishing “small town” character.
    • Northfield will work to achieve a balance of investment that includes housing, commercial and retail.
    • Artistic and cultural activities will be promoted.

    2. The natural environment will be protected, enhanced and better integrated in the Community.

    Northfield’s natural environment has a variety of ecological systems, and open spaces. Residents have a strong environmental ethic and support the protection of critical environmental areas and desire open spaces for recreation and peace of mind.

    • The Cannon River is a defining natural feature of the Community and will be protected and enhanced.
    • The Cannon River will be integrated into the downtown and surrounding areas by creating quality public spaces that connect people to the River.
    • Convenient and accessible recreational opportunities will be provided for all ages on parkland and greenspaces. These areas will be enhanced, and new areas set aside that connect people to the natural environment, and promote recreational opportunities to support active and healthy lifestyles.
    • The green spaces will be protected and enhanced as cherished Community assets.

    3. The preference for accommodating future growth is in infill locations, then redevelopment opportunities, and then on the edge of existing developed areas.

    The existing pattern of development has been to grow outward into the edge of existing development or fringe areas. This pattern of development is compromising the rural character at the edges of the Community. This also creates a disconnected growth pattern that is auto-oriented, while increasing the demand for infrastructure and Community services.

    • Priority areas for future development will be identified for all three areas (infill, redevelopment and greenfield).
    • When new growth occurs on the edge of the Community it will be done with great care so as not to compromise the rural landscape or the small town character.

    4. New and redeveloped residential communities will have strong neighborhood qualities.

    The pattern of residential growth has been to create subdivisions with a single use and building type. Typically these subdivisions are not human-scaled or walkable and are framed by wide streets in a pattern that does not connect residential areas to each other, or the greater Community.

    • Neighborhoods will be walkable with quality streets that accommodate both bicycles and automobiles, but give priority to the pedestrian experience.
    • Community gathering areas will be integrated into new residential areas to promote opportunities for social interaction and public events.
    • Basic retail service will be located nearby (accessible via walking and/or biking) or integrated with residential areas in the form of neighborhood centers.

    5. Environmentally-sensitive and sustainable practices will be integrated into new developments and redeveloped areas.

    The Community has a high level of environmental awareness, which is reflected in local energy choices. Residents want to continue to employ creative and innovative choices to reflect the Community’s commitment to sustainability and healthy living.

    • New construction will employ context sensitive design to reduce impacts on the natural environment.
    • Compact/cluster subdivision design will be the preferred pattern of residential development in edge areas.
    • Green building practices will be encouraged to minimize the consumption of resources, employ recycling of building materials, and promote quality indoor living and working environments for Northfield residents.
    • Energy efficient design and passive solar orientation will be encouraged.
    • Green stormwater management options should be implemented to retain and reuse stormwater when appropriate, and surface runoff reduced which may have negative impacts on the local watershed.

    6. Places with a mix of uses that are distinctive and contribute to increasing the City’s overall vitality are preferred.

    The local identity defined as “Old Northfield”, which includes a variety of uses mixed together on the same block, or same building, has been noted by residents as reflecting positively on the community. Over the last fifty years land uses have been segregated from one another, which detracts from this identity.

    • The City will encourage new and mixed-use centers – places that mix small-scale retail, residences, offices and civic uses.
    • New opportunities will be created for residents to live and work in and around the downtown.
    • Mixed-use centers will be compatible in scale and character of surrounding uses and incorporate quality architectural elements that reflect “Old Northfield.”
    • New opportunities for local businesses will be created in new mixed-use centers.
    • The City will promote the arts in the life of the community.

    7. Small-scale retail will have neighborhood-sensitive qualities.

    Retail has been developed in Northfield in a pattern that does not respond contextually to the surrounding neighborhoods, districts, and streets. Retail development has been single-use and auto-oriented, with parking out front and buildings disconnected from the streetscape. Few if any architectural elements have been incorporated into the design to reflect the vernacular or historical context of the Community.

    • Small retail will reflect qualities of the residential context with respect to form, scale and character.
    • Small retail will be sited in a manner that is pedestrian-friendly.

    8. A wider range of housing choices will be encouraged—in the Community as well as in neighborhoods.

    Housing developments have been developed with homogenous unit type and pricing. This has created a monotonous character to residential developments and has segregated residents socially and economically. Housing developments have also catered to larger families with above average household incomes (which does not reflect demographic trends) thereby limiting more affordable housing opportunities.

    • New residential development will offer a variety of housing types and prices.
    • Housing diversity will be integrated into the fabric of the neighborhood.

    9. Rural character of certain areas of the Community will be protected.

    The rural character of the Community is a defining element in creating Northfield’s identity. The primary elements that make up this character are the rural roads, expansive agrarian views, and rural architectural vernacular.

    • The open space and agricultural quality of the Community will be strengthened, and protected where appropriate.
    • Public investments, e.g. roads, will be improved in a manner that strengthens the rural character.

    10. Streets will create an attractive public realm and be exceptional places for people.

    The local streets are wide and are designed primarily to facilitate the movement of automobiles (e.g. ignore the needs of pedestrians and cyclist). The wide nature of the streets encourages a higher rate of travel for motorists, and increases the distance between building fronts, which detracts from the pedestrian experience and quaint small town character.

    • Roadways and streets are important elements of the built environment and will strengthen the character of the setting.
    • Roadways and streets will be given greater consideration as part of future development to ensure they contribute to the neighborhood character and people-oriented functions.
    • The City will take great care in protecting the rural roadway character on the edge of the Community.
    • Buildings will be situated on their site to define a high quality streetscape; this includes locating structures close to the street and parking to the rear of the structure.

    11. Places will be better connected, in part to improve the function of the street network and also to better serve neighborhoods.

    Streets that are disconnected limit the flow of traffic in the Community by forcing traffic onto major and minor arterials, which can create traffic congestion. Encouraging an interconnected street pattern will create more options for residents to arrive at destinations, thereby decreasing travel time/distance, reducing congestion and improving wayfinding.

    • The road pattern will be improved to keep local traffic off major arterials, and high-speed through traffic off local streets.
    • A connected grid street system is the preferred network for future development and redevelopment.
    • The development or redevelopment along commercial corridors will incorporate traditional patterns reflected in “Old Northfield”, which emphasizes pedestrian mobility and the relationships of buildings to one another and the public realm.

    12. Opportunities will be created to walk and bike throughout the Community.

    A large percentage of residents prefer to make trips via walking or biking, and desire to recreate on multi-use paths. Currently there are limited opportunities for walking and cycling, which encourages more trips being made via the automobile. This contributes to local congestion and decreased air quality, while limiting healthy lifestyle choices for residents.

    • The design of local streets will encourage pedestrian and bicycle movement through features such as sidewalks, bike paths, narrower street widths, and quality planter and buffer strips to protect the pedestrian.
    • Sidewalks, walking trails and bike paths will be connected to public parks and other destinations, including shopping and entertainment areas.

    June 11, 2007
  54. Paul Fried said:

    David, thanks for your reply. The language about “Old Northfield” is certainly there, but so is “diversity of housing options.” I think you may be reacting too strongly to the “Old Northfield” detail. This doesn’t necessarily exclude townhomes or twinhomes, which already exist in various forms in Northfield, and which could be incorporated in a plan that includes other good aspects of the plan.

    Inevitably, the sort of documents that come out of this sort of process read like documents written by committee, because that’s exactly what they are.

    At this stage, the effort should be to listen to as many voices and concerns as possible, which certainly includes economic concerns. If we do that, the hope is that imaginative people might find creative and workable ways to incorporate factors that now may seem distinct or even, at times, at odds.

    June 11, 2007
  55. Paul Fried said:

    P.S. So David, what you’re saying is that you’d let WalMart in (in a heartbeat!), but you’d rather say so over coffee than here? (O;

    (Coffee and conversation would be fine).

    June 11, 2007
  56. kiffi summa said:

    What would be the point of a “straw poll” when there are already several different ways to voice your opinion, enumerated many times here by Tracy and Ross? And is there really any need for such a device; there are only eight comments on the planning commission comment website…..looks to me like this is a discussion between a few people here, and the rest of the public is not feeling the need to get engaged.

    There’s no way to count the opinion of those who will not speak.

    June 11, 2007
  57. Anne Bretts said:

    I think straw polls, focus groups, any and all methods of inviting people into the conversation have merit, if the opinions that are solicited are treated with respect. We can disagree without the conversation becoming a debate of right and wrong.
    My concern with the straw poll question is that the wording makes people give an up or down on Hwy 3 development as it is, rather than the broader concept of having a variety of business options. I think most people would agree that there could have been, and still could be, improvement to the design of the highway corridor. But I’m not sure being against the current design is the same as being against all highway development.
    I do applaud the effort and look forward to the results. Perhaps the comment area will allow for more detail in responses.

    June 11, 2007
  58. Paul Fried said:

    It seems there are some very different underlying assumptions represented in some of the views people express, here and elsewhere, about Northfield’s future.

    Some who advocate sustainability want bike paths, sidewalks, and better use of limited land, so as to keep development closer and more connected to the old downtown. I guess I would count myself among those advocating sustainability. I don’t claim to represent that assumptions of all sustainability advocates, but I assume oil is a limited resource, oil companies are not discovering new deposits worldwide, demand is going up (China, India), and it’s getting more expensive to extract and refine what’s left. Gasoline prices will continue to rise, and may rise even more quickly than they have in recent years. Even if prices dip a bit after the summer, they’re bound to keep going up as a trend, faster than inflation. If the federal government continues to go to war with countries that have oil, or attempts to stage coups and overthrow governments in such countries, we might be paying higher federal taxes and highly subsidizing gasoline prices (and oil wars) in ways that make the price we pay per gallon at the pump highly illusory (this is already the case). And if we have a huge federal debt and higher federal taxes, this will affect us (and future development) on a local level (it already does).

    Some of those who resist certain elements they see in the principles seem to assume that a variety of decentralized mixed-use business developments, close to various neighborhoods, will not work because we don’t have much like that now, so we should keep developing business and retail in locations to which one might only practically travel by car. This kind of thinking seems to assume that gas prices will stay pretty much the same, or not go up that much faster than inflation, and we’ll keep driving our cars to work into the forseeable future. Or they’ll invent alternative fuels that will keep the price of transportation down, etc.

    So maybe some of the disagreement represented here isn’t just about the principles and/or the process and the economics represented. It’s not just about a sentimental attachment to the old downtown (or a related lack of imagination), or about the green movement and the anti-global-warming advocates against the free market Adam Smith economists. It’s also about what we assume about how the future may unfold.

    June 11, 2007
  59. Paul Fried said:

    As I understand it, there are now ways to do straw polls that reduce the chances that some folks might vote twice. But straw polls are still susceptible to problems, because certain interest groups can rally like-minded people and, in effect, stuff the poll with certain opinions. And a lot depends on who is writing the questions. If Adam Smith free-market fans are writing all the questions, of course the poll will show that people support free market development. If environmentalists write the questions, they could get very strong backing for their own views.

    June 11, 2007
  60. Anne Bretts said:

    Paul, I think there’s an assumption that people who question the design principles are just somehow uninformed or unenlightened. And I’ve heard here over and over that people are being forced by developers to make housing choices they don’t want. I think that view is a bit condescending. As I said the opposition to student housing and apartments in older neighborhoods indicates some people are willing for force housing choices on us that they won’t tolerate.
    Many of use understand completely the desire for sustainable growth, we’re just trying to find a way to match ideals and reality and create a transition between what we have and what might work if and when the future changes.
    Downtown Northfield wasn’t designed and built because it met some sustainable ideal, it simply was the most efficient business model for the time and was right on the main road.
    To plan for no growth in the downtown business district, move the main road to bypass downtown and then condemn businesses for wanting to be where there are customers and land seems unrealistic. They want just what the town founders wanted.
    A landlocked business district that served 10,000 people just may not be adequate to serve a market that now has 30,000 people or more. That’s a fact, not a belief or philosophy.
    Neighborhood businesses sound good, but if they aren’t yet viable, how do we make the transition (assuming the price of gas one day will make them viable again). Where is a model that works? You can’t force a business to lose money for years on the hope of a new reality.
    The Minneapolis library has neighborhood buildings, but can’t afford to staff them. The library here has made it clear that it can’t afford to staff more than one building. That’s not a belief in centralization, but a budget reality.
    I’d love neighborhood businesses and services, I just can’t find a way to afford them now — although it would be nice to have a plan for transitioning back to them. I just know that forced change won’t work.

    June 11, 2007
  61. David Ludescher said:

    As early as the end of this week, the Chamber is hoping to have some suggested changes to the Development Priniciples.

    The first draft is being prepared as we speak. The Chamber Executive Committee will then meet to review and discuss.

    At that point, we will decide whether to meet with our membership, the EDA, NDDC, and other business groups to obtain additional input before presenting to the public process.

    June 11, 2007
  62. Jerry Bilek said:

    Thanks Ross for posting the plan principles. I like what I see. I don’t see these principles as being overly restrictive or anti-growth. The growth will be intelligent growth. Better street designs that include pedestrian/bike transportation. This is wise land use.

    Neighborhood businesses can work. The Ole store in it’s old incarnation was a good example. Restaraunt on one side, small grocery on the other. Rest/cafe works as well. There are many examples in Mpls and St. Paul.

    June 11, 2007
  63. Anne Bretts said:

    If the Ole Store were a successful neighborhood business, I would agree. But the Ole Store didn’t work and after six months it appears it hasn’t found new owners who can make the numbers stay in the black. And it certainly wasn’t only a neighborhood business drawing people on foot but a business that had to draw from the entire city and beyond to get the numbers it needed. The line of cars along the street testify to that. If the restaurant had become successful, I’m sure the neighborhoods would have had concerns about the parking and traffic and noise. And how do you allow a business with inadequate setbacks and parking, then write zoning laws that demand such things from highway businesses — and then condemn them for being sprawl. The contradictions just don’t work for me.

    June 11, 2007
  64. Jerry Bilek said:

    The ole store did not fail from lack of customers. According to the owners, it failed because of a divorce. I do not know why it has not reopened, but I doubt the location has much to do with it. I never said it was drawing only foot traffic. Neighborhood businesses can draw foot, bike and auto. That business was there for decades. I have yet to hear the complaints from the neighbors.

    I don’t understand this part:
    “And how do you allow a business with inadequate setbacks and parking, then write zoning laws that demand such things from highway businesses — and then condemn them for being sprawl. The contradictions just don’t work for me.”

    I’ve seen neighborhood businesses with parking on the side, rear or street. it is not a contradiction.

    June 11, 2007
  65. Ross Currier said:

    Paul:

    I would add a mix of employment and housing opportunities to my definition of “sustainability”. I guess I’m not confident that a bedroom community (where everyone is driving 40 miles to work everyday) is sustainable, particularly under the ever-rising price of gas scenario that you suggest.

    The Chamber is right on to be concerned about not having a sufficient number of businesses in our “community investment portfolio” to support the real estate tax burden. There’s probably a varied assortment of opinions on what type of businesses Northfield is most likely to attract, and where we should be investing our scarce resources in hopes of achieving the visualized economic future.

    Based on my informal but extensive studies, it seems that we had pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use communities for 5,000 years. It was only in the last 50 years that we legally mandated different zones for different uses and called for the physical separation of family housing and grocery stores.

    Mixing commercial with residential, if it doesn’t already exist in such a blend, won’t always be easy. However, unless you’re one of those people that meets at Mike’s Bikes on Saturday morning for a 100 mile bike ride, you probably would prefer that a loaf of bread and a jug of milk be a shorter trip from home.

    Tracy and I, and the rest of the Planning Commission, will probably have new information to share come Thursday.

    Ross

    June 11, 2007
  66. Paul Fried said:

    Anne:
    Thanks for your response. I have not heard,

    …over and over, that people are being forced by developers to make housing choices
    they don’t want.

    But I have heard a number of times, including from city council members, that certain kinds of housing are in short supply. This means that there are at least some gaps between what consumers want, and what developers are building. If you don’t like the language of being “forced” to choose from among certain options, sure, folks can look in Faribault, or Dundas, or Farmington, or Apple Valley, or elsewhere, for what they’re not finding in Northfield.

    You wrote,

    Neighborhood businesses sound good, but if they aren’t yet viable, how do we
    make the transition (assuming the price of gas one day will make them viable
    again). Where is a model that works? You can’t force a business to lose money
    for years on the hope of a new reality.

    No, and I don’t think sustainability advocates need push businesses in the direction of losing money. But for instance, one idea floated for sustainable development of Northfield’s future growth had to do with greenways, with hightened transportation options related to roads and bike paths. Some spoke of downtown as the hub, with spokes emanating from the center, and at least the option of mixes use business parks, or neighborhood businesses, out along the spokes. This is not a matter of creating business parks in cornfields today, and the spokes are not about new roads ending in cornfields, but first of all, about various transportation arteries that already exist but are not yet fully utilized.

    In other words, you can make room in residential plans for parks and green spaces, and for temporary green spaces that could, one day, be developed into mixed-use business areas when those would become economically viable. No one is suggesting that any business be condemned to life in Siberia.

    I know a librarian in the Minneapolis system, and as I understand it, there are issues related to neighborhood libraries (and schools) that are not the same as those related to businesses. Certain businesses have no trouble thriving in parts of Minneapolis where libraries are being closed. And libraries don’t sell books, they loan them for free, so they depend on votes, taxes, government budgets and sometimes grants, not on markets and consumer purchases, as bookstores do. The politics of Mpls. closing certain neighborhood libraries (with internet access to texts as competition, and with changing demographics in neighborhoods), and having the city take closer responsibility for management of libraries recently, is a bit of a stretch for me in its relation to planning for Northfield’s future, except to recognize that many factors shift and change. And to recognize that when we’re not at war, we sometimes take some money from the federal budget to help support libraries (the feds recently boosted efforts to recruit new librarians because of a predicted shortfall, but they cut library funding even more in other areas because there just isn’t that much money or will left with what we’re spending on war).

    Many planned cities have accomplished wonderful things, and most are better than unplanned cities, or simply putting our faith in the invisible hand.

    June 11, 2007
  67. Paul Fried said:

    Ross: I agree completely about bedroom community and employment.

    Inasmuch as the principles speak of the river as a major resource, has there ever been thought of a parkway (and an expanded business and residential district physically linked to the old downtown) that follows the river?

    Anne B. has spoken of the good option of looking at other cities as models, and good waterfront development often leads to success. Consider cities like Duluth, Baltimore, Portland, Maine, and even some improvements and developments in Mpls. and St. Paul.

    Downtown Northfield once used the river more as city sewer than as scenic asset, and with the backs of too many building still facing the river, it seems a hard model to break. But some of the athletic parks that now under-use the river might be relocated (along with the snow dumping and rodeo grounds), and business development to the south and west of Highway 3 along a parkway system, or at least parkway loop, reconnected to Dundas or Hwy 3, could be an attractive and viable option.

    I know a riverfront parkway would be complicated, given wetlands, etc. But maybe it could work. I’ve long considered Northfield’s use of the broader riverfront areas immediately outside of the downtown area as some of the least logical, least efficient or economic uses that could be imagined.

    Is the rodeo park a sacred cow, to the point where we can’t imagine holding a rodeo anywhere else? If people being attached to the “look and feel” of “old Northfield” is sentimental, illogical and not good economics, then perhaps the same is true of the rodeo park.

    Maybe David’s our guy to advocate change on that front with the Chamber… what’s the invisible hand saying about the rodeo park? anybody have a Ouiji board? (O;

    June 11, 2007
  68. Anne Bretts said:

    Paul and Jerry,

    We are going in circles, so I’m going to be brief.
    In entry 27, I believe, Tracy says developers aren’t giving people housing choices.
    But with the estimaed 400+ empty housing units in town I find that hard to believe, and two years ago I had plenty of choices.
    Jerry, Google the Ole Store and pay for the archived stories and you’ll see it closed because the owners were exhausted and couldn’t find a buyer. It was a year before it re-opened. And it seems the divorce of the last owner may have been caused in part by the demands of keeping the business open. We don’t really know. As for the comment about parking, no new business would be allowed to start with the format of the Ole Store, so to require more parking and force businesses to the highway and then condemn them for being there just seems unfair.
    And still no one has offered concrete examples to support the design principles in a town the size of Northfield, so this remains an exercise in philosophy, not realistic economic development planning. And so on a philosophical level I agree with all the principles, as well as peace on earth and good will to all men.

    June 11, 2007
  69. Paul Fried said:

    Anne: thanks for pointing me to Tracy’s response #27, which, along with my #50, certainly could be read as “over and over” (it’s two, at least).

    But of 400 empty units, how much diversity does it really represent? Many empty units I notice seem concentrated in specific developments, styles, sizes. I know of a few empty older homes. But I haven’t done a systematic analysis (yet).

    Maybe a realtor/reader could chime in and break it down for us?

    June 11, 2007
  70. Tracy Davis said:

    As for the comment about parking, no new business would be allowed to start with the format of the Ole Store, so to require more parking and force businesses to the highway and then condemn them for being there just seems unfair.

    Anne, the WHOLE POINT of revising our ordinances is because what we have doesn’t work well and isn’t leading to the type of development that facilitates Northfield’s remaining a somewhat independent community (as opposed to a Twin Cities suburb/bedroom community). I would expect that the finished product–the new land use regulations–would NOT have parking and setback requirements that could only be satisfied on the highway. The development trend you identified–the results of our existing ordinances–is what the City is trying to address.

    And still no one has offered concrete examples to support the design principles in a town the size of Northfield, so this remains an exercise in philosophy, not realistic economic development planning.

    First of all, understand that the Planning Commission’s jurisdiction is only about land use. Obviously that has economic implications, but we are not attempting “economic development planning”. And the reason you haven’t yet seen “concrete examples” of the development principles is because they’re vague at this stage; really just sentiments, like your peace on earth and goodwill to all. When the Planning Commission and consultants have drilled down to the next level, we should be able to offer examples of what a certain principle’s goals and objectives would look like in the real world if implemented. To do so now is impossibly premature.

    I’d also like to thank those who pointed out that in doing land use planning, the City has to take a long-range (20-50 year) view in making these decisions. Once we’ve paved over prime ag land to put up a Pizza Hut, or build more subdivisions, that land is not easily recovered for at least a generation. So it behooves us to make informed, intentional choices rather than inadvertent ones.

    June 11, 2007
  71. Ross Currier said:

    Paul:

    I have heard the idea of developing and/or redeveloping all along the river raised several times over the past five or six years. Most often it is in the context of a continuous business park connected by a bike and pedestrian trail. The last two people that I can remember raising this concept were Councilor Jim Pokorney and Commissioner Ron Griffith.

    The idea was even formally discussed at a joint meeting of the EDA and Planning Commission. In the context of creating more space for business in the Northfield region, there were three areas discussed in the Economic Development Plan, Northwest of the Hospital, along Armstrong Road, and the “Riverview Industrial Park”, which I believe was later called something like the “Cannon River Opportunity Zone”. It was recognized that the challenge of property assembly and cost of redevelopment for this third option would be considerable. However, there were some that suggested it would be a unique commercial environment that might be highly attractive to some desireable businesses.

    Maintaining the ability to create a bicycle and pedestrian corridor along the river would be important to achieve this vision. I believe that the City’s recent Greenway Corridor Action Plan specifically mentioned this concern: http://www.ci.northfield.mn.us/projects/commdevplanning/2006/11/07/greenway_corridor_action_plan3

    June 11, 2007
  72. Griff Wigley said:

    Kiffi wrote:

    What would be the point of a “straw poll” when there are already several different ways to voice your opinion?

    Kiffi, I think only a small percentage of people have the time, skill, courage and — and this is the most important — level of understanding of these issues to be able to stand up and speak at a meeting or post a comment here.

    I agree with David Ludescher that there a LOT more folks out there who could be heard from on this issue. I think these folks have enough of an interest and understanding to weigh in on it but NOT nearly as much as everyone else here or who spoke at the public meetings.

    Citizen engagement is a broad spectrum, and thus far, Northfield citizens have only been presented with a limited range of participation opportunties on this issue.

    I hope my LG colleagues don’t take me to the e-woodshed for the criticism!

    June 11, 2007
  73. Peter Waskiw said:

    We can talk all day about philosophical difference and personal choice, however, I think one important issue that is missing from the discussion so far and is how do you implement the principles in the CP…in PRACTICAL TERMS. I know Tracy you tried to answer my question, but my point is directed to understanding how the new form based code system will improve the decision making process for the PC and CC.

    Good decisions are based on two things, 1. Staff’s ability to write good planning reports and 2. Application of policy (comp plan and ordinance) through the decision making process.

    So far, I am not hearing how that decision making process will be improved. I need to make it clear that I am NOT against formed based codes, but I am against wasting tax payers money and creating unnecessary planning models that don’t really serve the purpose of making sustainable communities.

    So lets get back to the question. Having seen how decisions are made and understanding the political nature of local planning, many pressures are place on staff, PC and CC to make decisions that just reinforce the status quo. We have seen this with decisions that actually go against the Comp Plan, such as neighborhood centers issue that still has not been resolved in the current Comp Plan. The argument in this case cannot be said to be the lack of design codes to encourage neighborhood centers, but rather a lack of will in the decision makers to follow the Comp Plan. Here, developers overreached the will of the Comp Plan, decision makers and staff. Perhaps the developers economic arguments were stronger than any principles created for the common good!.

    My point is that a form based code system is not a magic bullet that will overpower a developers desire vs community values. It been proven time and time again that if the Comp Plan itself is not tied together WITH other Comp Plan policies, WITH the codes THROUGH the decision making process…well….. your dead in the water with only the current to move you around.

    So how do the principles, with form based codes relate to such things at the Future Land Use Map! The Future Land Use Map sets out the future desire of what type of development will go where. Does Northfield want commercial development up Division Street to Woodley…..then the Future Land Use Map should show it. This has nothing to do with Form Base Codes, only the land use principle of encouraging development in the CORE downtown area, within walking distance of many anchors, such as supermarkets, parks and entertainment areas. Again, nothing to do with form based codes. This also relates to highway development, only the Future Land Use Map dictates where development should go. Would it make sense to put housing along TH 3? Unless you have a Future Land Use Map that says you can’t your in trouble. This has nothing to do with form based codes, but actuall makes is soely based on a policy decision in the Com Plan, long before any code is picked up.

    So the connection between principles is not so much having the correct ordinance or codes, but actually the make-up the Comp Plan itself and the backbone of decision makers such as the Planning Commission and the City Council.

    I hope this helps the discussion.

    June 12, 2007
  74. Tracy Davis said:

    Peter, thanks for your post, these are excellent points. I have some thoughts on them and possibly some preliminary answers to your questions, but I won’t be able to post them for a bit. I’m preparing for this week’s planning marathon (30+ hours of meetings at last count) with the consultants, staff, stakeholders etc. I’ll write again as soon as I can take a deep breath and compose both myself and the post.

    June 12, 2007
  75. David Ludescher said:

    Peter, please clarify what you think should be the next step in the process.

    I have heard some comments that we should have more public input. I would like to hear some more; but, I’m not sure if more people would participate, and what would be done with the information.

    At the risk of being cynical, if the Planning Commission is preparing to go forward with 30+ hours of planning with the consultants, staff, and stakeholders, the comments made here have not made much of an impression.

    Perhaps someone from the Planning Commission could clarify what are the intended steps so that we can get away from the philosophical discussions, and get down to the business of putting together a Plan.

    Peter’s thoughts of putting together land use maps has much merit. It is practical, tangible, and relatively easy. It gives everyone a reference point to begin a discussion.

    June 12, 2007
  76. Tracy Davis said:

    Dave – Do you think the Planning Commission should NOT meet with consultants, staff, and stakeholders to continue working on the revised Comp Plan? I don’t get your point. Please clarify. Thanks.

    June 12, 2007
  77. Tracy Davis said:

    I should also mention that one of the things we’re reviewing is a DRAFT – PROPOSED – revised land use map.

    It’s late and I’m getting snarky, but I have to express a bit of frustration at the continued implication that the Planning Commissioners are a bunch of dopes who don’t understand either basic principles of urban planning, or market realities. The finished product of this whole process will be a Comprehensive Plan, Land Use Map, and Land Development regulations that are clear, cohesive, and consistent with each other, which incorporate and reference the work and recommendations of other related plans, e.g. Economic Development, Transportation, Trails, etc. etc.

    Anyone have a problem with that?

    June 12, 2007
  78. Peter Waskiw said:

    David
    I’ve been looking for steps in the City’s process related to these issues. I am sure that the City staff and consultant have built these into the timeline, but my early first look at the scope of work alerted me to some issues.

    One being the tremedous work load associated to task of doing both the Comp Plan, Codes and meetings (general public, special interest groups, community leaders, state/local agencies, other stakeholders).

    If the intent is to just update the Comp Plan, then I would have thought the policies related to the various land use types discussed in the Comp Plan such as residential, commercial, public purpose etc, would need to be updated.

    If the principles are changing then there certainly need to be policy updates to reflect the “philisophical” direction. Although that might not be the intent.

    I have not heard any public discussion yet about the “insides” of the Comp Plan, including the existing Future Land Use Map. In support of Future Land Use Map, there is a Future Transportation Plan, Trails and Parks Map and Water and Sewer Map etc. All should reflect the direction set by the principles and supporting policy. For example, if certain land is being considered for commercial development, has the City thought of the required infrastructure, not just the roads but sewer/water, trails, parks, nearby compatible uses! Has the cost of this been weighed against other needed infrastructure……? The whole idea of…if you build it they will come, or if you plan it they will build.

    Normally what I have described is the process. However, this will depend upon the scope and the direction set by city planning staff.

    The next phase would be the development of the codes (ordinance). If form based codes are being proposed, which really are just performance based codes with a strong design emphasis, then that’s fine. But again, this will involve discussion, debate and decision (the 3d’s).

    More importantly, I recommend testing. There is no reason why some of these methods could not be tested against the existing process and ordinace. But this requires more staff time, committment and patience. I am not sure we have all three.

    I have probably gone beyond your question, but little discussion has surfaced PUBLICLY regarding these issues.

    June 12, 2007
  79. David Ludescher said:

    When I first accepted the gracious invitation of Locally Grown to appear on the program, my hope was to present not only a Chamber perspective, but also a community perspective. I have failed in presenting the community perspective; fortunately, Anne has carried the ball on this part.

    There have been other perspectives tossed around in this forum that need to be addressed if the Development Principles are to be meaningful. Here is my summary.

    1. Limited public input. What we have to date is limited public input. Griff has suggested a straw poll or some other method of making sure that other voices are heard. It is not a question of the public officials being “dopes”, but rather having an honest picture of public will. Even if the Planning Commission decides to limit the principles to the public will, rather than the public good, I would hope that they would not limit the public will to only those who showed up at the one meeting.

    2. Lack of modification based upon alternative opinions. I believe that the Chamber has spoken of legitimate shortcomings of the principles. (In fact, we feel so strongly that we are drafting suggested modifications) Anne has spoken about the implicit assumption in the principles that Northfield should not have allowed developers to build the home where she now lives. Can or will there be any modification of the principles before drafting the Comp Plan?

    3. Development principles purpose. Peter has articulated the need for the principles to have a practical place in the development process. It is fair to ask why we are even drafting the principles if the Comp Plan is not going to be reflective of the principles. Is the Land Use Map going to be reflective of the Comp Plan? How will the ordinances be developed?

    The message that I am taking back to the Chamber right now is that I know that some members of the Planning Commission have heard us, and others. But, to date, there has been no private nor public statements that the Planning Commission intends to modify the Principles. I am also taking back the message that at least one Planning Commission has promised that the Comp Plan will include our concerns; how that will be accomplished is still unclear. Furthermore, that is the private promise of only one member of the Commission.

    On a private basis, I still have all of the concerns that I addressed at the public meeting. In addition to the business concerns, the principles will have many unintended social consequences. Gone will be the low-income housing and its residents and gone will be the blue collar jobs. Only those who can afford to pay high taxes will remain. Our town will not become more diverse if the people are more alike. Our public and private institutions will begin to suffer not only from a lack of financial resources, but from a lack of ability to develop and grow. If we are not careful, we will become like an insect stuck in its own exoskeleton, unable to use the existing skeleton, but unable to shed it for a new one.

    June 13, 2007
  80. Bill Ostrem said:

    Mr. Ludescher,

    I would need more evidence to be convinced of the truth of your claims regarding the fiscal consequences of implementing the proposed development principles. That said, I respect the fact that local business leaders have particular concerns about how changes in development patterns may affect their sources of income.

    I hope that the Chamber of Commerce and other business leaders will consider that typical development/land-use patterns in the United States in the last few decades have had important negative consequences, many of them unintended. These include the loss of huge amounts of wildlife habitat and prime agricultural land, and also many problems associated with making motor vehicle travel a necessity: traffic congestion, high rates of obesity and diabetes, the highest energy use per capita in the world, air pollution (including greenhouse gases),and higher costs for living (due to the cost of private vehicles, energy use, detached homes, etc.).

    If we want to avoid or reduce these problems, then in my mind alternative approaches to development seem worth pursuing.

    June 13, 2007
  81. Ross said:

    David:

    I think that you have done an exceptional job advocating for your particular interest group. You, like the rest of us individuals, cannot be held responsible for not representing the opinions of every person in Northfield.

    Here is my reaction to your summary.

    1. Public Input. We held a town meeting. 260 people showed up and gave input. The City Council asked us to hold another town meeting. 130 people showed up. 96.6% of those that gave input at this meeting supported the proposed Development Priniciples as drafted. In addition, through statements at the public meetings, on the web and in the Northfield News, citizens have been invited to give input through a phone call to staff or an e-mail to the Northfield Plan website.

    The Chamber of Commerce has chosen an alternative route, sending letters to the Planning Commission and private meetings with City staff. That’s fine, however, unless the Chamber plans to continue to publish their letters to the Commission in the Northfield News or post meeting minutes from their private sessions with City staff on their website, the rest of Northfield’s citizens won’t be able to benefit from the Chamber’s opinions.

    Finally, you have said on several occasions that you are concerned that only citizens in Northfield’s historic neighborhoods are speaking up about what they want in their community. Last night, during the discussion on the Fargaze development, a couple of dozen citizens from the newer neighborhood in the southeast corner of Northfield participated in the meeting, many offering very specific input. Here it is: they want sidewalks, safe streets, and bike trails. This input is right in line with what we’ve heard from folks at the two town meeting sessions.

    2. Inclusion of Alternative Opinions. I am so glad to hear that you are drafting specific, written suggestions for the draft Development Principles. I have BEGGED you on three seperate occasions for just such material, first when I contacted you by e-mail when you published a letter to me as a Planning Commissioner in the paper instead of calling me as a friend on the telephone to discuss your concerns, second when we spent 45 minutes talking at the follow-up town meeting, and third when we were waiting in the hallway outside the KRLX radio studio. With the six weeks of work that you’ve put into it, I have the highest expectations for the resulting material. I also hope that it contains at least one quote from a 17th century British philosopher, I so appreciate the rare opportunity to use my undergraduate studies.

    3. The Role of the Development Principles Going Forward. I can only speak for myself. I view the Principles as an effort at capturing the values of the citizens that participated in the process. I would use that input much in the same way that I used the public input from the citizens that participated in the Fargaze development last night. I acknowledged those stated values by clearly repeating and summarizing what I had heard into the record, checking with the other Commissioners for confirmation, and then suggested to the Commission that those values be incorporated into our recommendation to the City Council. I believe that we did a good job in incorporating the values of the citizens, the concerns of the developers, the advice of the staff, and the leadership of the Commission into our recommendation to the Council.

    I truly appreciate your participation in this important process. We’re through with the warm-up exercises, moving beyond the draft Development Principles, and beginning the real work of revising the Comprehensive Plan and Zoining Oridnances. I do hope that you haven’t exhausted yourself with published letters in the local paper, private meetings with city staff and articulate comments on the community website. We’ll value, and need, your ideas all the way to September.

    See you downtown,

    Ross

    June 13, 2007
  82. Paul Fried said:

    Excellent recent comments from Peter, Tracy, Bill and Ross.

    If David is, in fact, concerned about low-income housing options and blue-colar jobs, great, and I hope his written suggestions illuminate options (perhaps even sustainable options?).

    It seems that the process has allowed for citizen input in many ways, so I don’t quite understand David’s pessimism along those lines, except perhaps as preparation for a sour-grapes argument if the will of the many who attended the meetings overrides the will of the chamber in some ways.

    I’m glad that the process attempted to listen to citizens, and then articulate what was heard in a list of principles. If constructive input is forthcoming from the Chamber for revisions, fine, but the pessimism about sustainability from David, and sometimes from Anne, seems premature at this point in the process. They seem to be anticipating worst-case scenarios, merely from an early document written by committee, from community input.

    I get no sense from Tracy or Ross that we will be led toward economic suicide, intentionally or unintentionally, as a result of the principles. I think you’re doing a good job, glad you’re committed to the process, and good to see you still listening to opinions. Thanks for your work.

    June 13, 2007
  83. David Ludescher said:

    Disappointed would be a charitable term to describe my reaction that the Planning Commission intends to proceed with drafting a Comp Plan without giving serious consideration to making any changes to the Development Principles.

    It makes little sense to me to carry this discussion to the Comp Plan only to rehash the same objections. I am of the firm conviction that unless the Planning Commission resolves the concerns of the Griff Wiggleys, Anne Bretts, Peter Waskiws, David Ludeschers, and the silent others that the Comp Plan will not get the necessary support of the City Council.

    We have the opportunity now to reach some kind of consensus before lines are drawn in the sand. I agree with Tracy that we are probably not that far apart on what is an acceptable compromise. We need to resist the temptation to become “snarky” (whatever that means, it didn’t sound good).

    I don’t know the best way to incorporate others, nor to address concerns about liberty, and process, but I do know that the Chamber and the Planning Commission have the opportunity right now, right here to reach an agreement about these Development Principles. I also know that if we don’t reach an agreement, as the representative heads of those bodies who have entrusted us to carry out their mission, that we cannot expect our members to resolve the conflicts which we were incapable of concluding.

    The Chamber’s goal is to promote a healthy business environment. No one can seriously question that a healthy business environment is not only good, but necessary, for the City, and its residents. We are seeking a healthy environment, not for the exclusion of others, but for the inclusion of all.

    The first draft of the Chamber’s “compromised” proposals have been completed. Upon Board review and approval, the document will be forthcoming. I trust that the Planning Commission will give it the due consideration which it deserves.

    June 13, 2007
  84. kiffi summa said:

    While the 6/8 of you/us are continuing to proselytize their views, unaccepted by some variable of the 6/8 who have written repeatedly here……………….. does anyone have an idea of how to gather the opinions of the “silent others” as David referred to them; and if those “silent others” become un-silent, how many OTHER “silent others’ will need to be UN-silent before we feel enough of the “silent others” have had their perspectives validated ?

    No decision making body can be expected to include in their deliberations the unknown opinions of people who do not care enough to express themselves. That is nothing but a futile exercise in speculation, which then dilutes the opinions of those who took the time to offer their input, as well as a possibly miscontrued speculation of what those silent additional opinions might be.

    How can a public input process be trusted if it is a speculation, rather than a compilation of the comments offered? That opens the door for the decision making body to make any decision THEY please, on the basis of a presumed body of public opinion, whether it is factual or not.

    I find it difficult to believe the level of ludicrousness to which this discussion has descended. (yes, ludicrousness is a word; look it up)

    If a court/judge was not satisfied with the testimony of the witnesses presented, and if he/she/it felt the opinions of “silent others” (all? how many?) should be heard, how would that play???

    Seems to me most of this controversy could have been avoided if the Chamber had gotten its members together, written comments that expressed their supposed POV, and given them either at a public meeting, online, or to a city staff member. Now it just looks like angst with the announced process.

    June 13, 2007
  85. Rick Estenson said:

    Wow! Had a little time on my hands as we travel thru Thailand on a teachers conference so while my wife is teaching i read most of the 83 posts. great insights and comments and i am new to this type of communication medium in this quantity at least so wanted to make three short statements.
    1. I wish all the members of the EDA will find the time to read through this string and be able to contemplate how we should help proceed as an EDA for the City.
    2. This is one of the reasons i choose not to try to participate in public/internet communications in this type of format. besides not being as smart and articulate as all of you, i really doubt i could find the time to keep up and respond in a manner that makes for good communication. I will say, however, when a person does have the time to see all the comments strung together like this, it is helpful way to learn about some of the issues confronting us all.
    3. Lastly, like DAvid, i worry that the process of getting things done in our community that we hear about from so many different perspectives will not be any better or perhaps will be worse once these principles are determined. we need some flexibility for those things we cannot possibly anticipate right now but also don’t want to open the door so broadly that there are no standards whatsoever. Balance….not a new concept in life is it? I wish i was able to recommend how that should get worded but alas, i am not a 17th century British philosopher or a 21st century visionary.
    humbly submitted and appreciative of the passion of people involved in this process.
    one of your EDA servants
    Rick Estenson

    June 13, 2007
  86. Anne Bretts said:

    Kiffi, you and I can agree this is getting ludicrous, but for different reasons (no surprise there).
    Reading back through this thread, I feel that if, during a public process, a group mentioned that all views weren’t included in that public process, the leaders of the process would say, “Gee, thanks, let’s expand the discussion and get more views. When can we talk to you and get your comments?” Instead, the leaders say, “We got the views we wanted, so tough luck.” This hardly seems the attitude of people who are supposed to be representing the entire city, not just the faction that supports their personal views.
    When the leaders of the process use the term sprawl and speak in disparaging terms about others in the community, it’s not surprising that those people will feel there’s no point in making a comment at the public meeting. And so the downward spiral into “snarky” comments and sarcasm begins again.
    As I recall there was one meeting in April to discuss the principles and one in May to review them. If you missed the meetings, you’re toast. That means, I think, that there were more public meetings about the possibility of allowing people to plant vegetables (within walking distance of their homes) in a sustainable community garden at Way Park (which neighbors rejected) than for the development principles that will guide the city’s entire comp plan.
    As I recall, the ArtsPlan people were very thorough in taking their case to the League of Women Voters’ 4th Monday meeting, the NDDC forum, and to just about every group that would have them. They were a model of seeking out the ideas and feedback of the entire community.
    It is at best disingenuous to say there is no way to reach people who didn’t come to the comp plan meeting. Many suggestions were offered here, and ignored.
    Highway projects also are good examples of government agencies seeking out stakeholders and including their input. There are dozens of models to use, if the goal is to be inclusive and not to win a game of “gotcha.”
    The Chamber of Commerce raises legitimate concerns about the principles. My concerns are the vagueness of them, and the push for concepts that aren’t yet financially possible for developments here. It’s great to encourage neighborhood businesses, but unrealistic to legislate them if they aren’t yet financially viable. Again, many communities are far ahead of Northfield on this and there’s plety of evidence of how the principles can work and where the pitfalls are.
    As I have pointed out before, the goverrnment officials in this city and school district – supported by voters and parents — have decided that it is necessary for children to be born in a big box, go to school in big boxes, and play organized megasports in monster sized facilities that gather hundreds of SUVs on vast paved lots with bright night lighting. It seems ludicrous to expect those children to grow up wanting to walk to inadequate undersized parks nestled in among outdated, energy-hogging relics of 19th century housing in annoyingly bright colors hidden by overgrown vegetation.
    (See how the choice of words colors your reaction to the comments, turning modern, efficient schools into hideous big boxes and charming old homes into monstrosities. It’s all a matter of perspective and whether the person is trying to encourage a conversation or an argument.)
    So if we’re all about sustainable, why aren’t all these parents making their children play pick-up games in their backyards and neighborhood playgrounds?
    I know the new ordinances haven’t been written, but under the current principles, would First National Bank be allowed to build a new bank in my neighborhood, or would it have to remain a downtown only operation?
    It is sad that it feels the purpose of this process has become how to ramrod an agenda rather than create and nurture concensus. Since businesses will be doing most of the development, both residential and commercial, ridiculing business concerns seems ludicrous, indeed.

    June 13, 2007
  87. Paul Fried said:

    Before I said I thought there were unspoken assumptions about the future of oil, transportation and the feasibility of certain sustainable models. I didn’t realize that writers of comments here were dragging this much baggage to the conversation.

    Dave, instead of inviting me to coffee to explain the subtleties of Adam Smith (and his preference for labor over gold, his preference for progressive taxation?) as applied to Northfield’s economic situation, it appears you should be inviting Ross.

    And Anne, I don’t know where some of your assumptions are coming from.

    From your reply # 60:

    …I’ve heard here over and over that people are being forced by developers to make housing choices they don’t want.

    Well, it was twice, and one “over” assumes that repetition. In spite of your anecdotal evidence, I still agree with Tracy.

    Also in your reply # 60 you write,

    I think there’s an assumption that people who question the design principles are just somehow uninformed or unenlightened.

    Isn’t it possible that people don’t assume this, but belive, at least, that there’s a disagreement, and are committed enough to their view to want argue their case in the face of that disagreement?

    …it feels the purpose of this process has become how to ramrod an agenda rather than create and nurture concensus.

    Where is that coming from? I don’t see anyone ramrodding an agenda (yet). Why do you assume this? Who is doing this, and in what ways has it been manifest in the public meetings, or in comments here, or in some other way?

    Since businesses will be doing most of the development, both residential and commercial, ridiculing business concerns seems ludicrous, indeed.

    And where is that coming from? Without consumers, without average citizens like those who participated so far in the process, there would be no one to buy the housing or frequent the businesses, and the invisible hand of the market would wipe the businesses off the map. Why the binary either-or, instead of both-and?

    I have read nothing here that could be construed as ridicule of business. Why can’t people have different opinions, pro and con, without categorizing some of those opinions as ridicule?

    For example, are you reading Bill Ostrem’s comments regarding land use and obesity as ridicule of business, or ridicule of the free market? It seems he’s raising valid concerns. Are you demonizing opinions with which you disagree by labeling them “ridicule”?

    It’s one thing to engage in the dialogue in good faith, and to listen to concerns about sprall, or like those raised by Bill Ostrem and others, and to express your own concerns that so-called sustainability should not be too restrictive to business: it should not scare business away, shouldn’t create too-long delays for businesses that want to start and build, should not create too-awkward restrictions on where businesses can or cannot locate, etc. Fine. It sounds to me as if Tracy and Ross would be very open to such concerns.

    But who’s ridiculing? It seems a tendency toward hyperbole to rush to such judgments about some of the concerns raised.

    June 14, 2007
  88. Paul Fried said:

    Regarding the desire for more input: Sure, straw polls are fine, but they tend to be short and assume a short attention span. So they tend to be dominated by a very few questions, which convey a very few biases.

    And yes, you could extend and broaden the search for input. You could go to the NFLD Retirement Center and Three Links, and try to seek out the wisdom of the ages. When school is back in session in the fall, you could ask kids to do projects: Draw pictures and write essays about what they want to see in Northfield’s future. Ask nurses, doctors, teachers, motel owners, fast food restaurant owners, landscape experts, arts organizations, sports booster groups. Church groups, atheists, agnostics, people with tatoos or body piercings. People who sing in the shower, or in their car. Every possible group you can imagine.

    If an art organization reaches out to some groups in creative ways, fine. But how realistic is it to start reaching out to a list of special interest groups? Which do you include, or exclude? Which are expected to come to the general meeting, or fend for themselves, while others get special treatment?

    What’s so bad about the general invitation to come to a meeting, or to come again, or to contact city officials and civic leaders about their concerns and ideas? I don’t think the way it was done was especially limiting or short-sighted. If you draw out the process too long (till school starts again?), there’s a danger that you get turnover in leadership, that new leadership drops the ball, that old leadership gets burned out on the process.

    Is it ramrodding to speak this way of the process as it had unfolded so far? I don’t think so. I agree with Kiffi.

    I didn’t even attend the meetings. Wasn’t free those days. But a neighbor who was planning to attend called to ask for my input, and we had a nice conversation on the phone. I don’t know if it made any difference, or if my voice was heard, but I’m certainly not complaining that they didn’t check my schedule before planning the dates of the meetings.

    June 14, 2007
  89. Tracy Davis said:

    Rick, it’s nice to see you here! I hope you’re having a grand time in Thailand. Have some pad thai for me, and if you find any silk weavers who will do custom commercial work, please pass along their contact info (I’m dead serious about that last one).

    One of the consultants met with the EDA yesterday (well, with Mark Moors and BIll Cowles anyway) but I haven’t yet heard the outcome or concerns. As I said at several EDA meetings last fall before my sentence was up, it’s imperative that the EDA and the Planning Commission continue communicating as this process moves along, so we can work in tandem on issues like land for a proposed business park, etc.

    Peter wrote:

    So how do the principles, with form based codes relate to such things at the Future Land Use Map! . . . Again, nothing to do with form based codes. This also relates to highway development, only the Future Land Use Map dictates where development should go.

    It will. The map is also being revised. We saw a draft last night be it hasn’t been published yet.

    Dave wrote:

    Perhaps someone from the Planning Commission could clarify what are the intended steps so that we can get away from the philosophical discussions, and get down to the business of putting together a Plan.

    The steps are shown here in the project timeline posted on NorthfieldPlan.org

    Peter wrote:

    I’ve been looking for steps in the City’s process related to these issues. I am sure that the City staff and consultant have built these into the timeline, but my early first look at the scope of work alerted me to some issues. One being the tremedous work load associated to task of doing both the Comp Plan, Codes and meetings (general public, special interest groups, community leaders, state/local agencies, other stakeholders).

    You’re right, this is a tremendous workload, as you well know! That’s part of the reason why outside consultants were hired; relying on City staff to add it to their existing workload, and expecting Planning Commissioners to volunteer even more of their time was not feasible, even if we had all the fields of expertise necessary for the job represented in-house, which we don’t.

    If the intent is to just update the Comp Plan, then I would have thought the policies related to the various land use types discussed in the Comp Plan such as residential, commercial, public purpose etc, would need to be updated. If the principles are changing then there certainly need to be policy updates to reflect the “philisophical” direction. Although that might not be the intent.

    The intent is 1) to make our implementation documents (ordinances/regs) consistent with our policy documents (the comp plan, ec. dev. plan, et al); 2) to improve City processes for handling development and redevelopment.

    I have not heard any public discussion yet about the “insides” of the Comp Plan, including the existing Future Land Use Map. In support of Future Land Use Map, there is a Future Transportation Plan, Trails and Parks Map and Water and Sewer Map etc. All should reflect the direction set by the principles and supporting policy. For example, if certain land is being considered for commercial development, has the City thought of the required infrastructure, not just the roads but sewer/water, trails, parks, nearby compatible uses!

    I don’t know if you’ll hear public discussion of this level of detail. This is the kind of thing that happens at PC meetings (the agendas of which are posted in advance on the City website and of course are open to the public.

    Dave wrote:

    There have been other perspectives tossed around in this forum that need to be addressed if the Development Principles are to be meaningful. Here is my summary.

    1. Limited public input. What we have to date is limited public input. Griff has suggested a straw poll or some other method of making sure that other voices are heard. . . Even if the Planning Commission decides to limit the principles to the public will, rather than the public good, I would hope that they would not limit the public will to only those who showed up at the one meeting.

    There have been, and will continue to be, many opportunities for public input. Anyone from the public may comment or contact Planning Commissioners or City staff at any time during this process.

    2. Lack of modification based upon alternative opinions. I believe that the Chamber has spoken of legitimate shortcomings of the principles. (In fact, we feel so strongly that we are drafting suggested modifications)

    The principles are being modified. I believe some of this work will take place at the next Planning Commission meeting on June 26. I hope we have the Chamber’s suggested modifications for consideration well before that date.

    3. Development principles purpose. Peter has articulated the need for the principles to have a practical place in the development process. It is fair to ask why we are even drafting the principles if the Comp Plan is not going to be reflective of the principles.

    Is the Land Use Map going to be reflective of the Comp Plan?

    Please re-read my previous answers in post #10 and post #77.

    How will the ordinances be developed?

    Consultants and City staff with write them, with input from a technical advisory group.

    June 14, 2007
  90. kiffi summa said:

    I think it will be helpful to remember that no “leaders” ( I assume that means PC members who have commented here) have said “Tough luck”; they have constantly re-informed the public of all the ways to comment.

    I think it is also helpful to remember that “Sprawl” came up as a generic/short-hand term here, but was a big factor in the comments at the first public meeting. I had a table with six teenagers participating and in the preference exercises they were united in their adversity to “sprawl”, when defined either as highway commercial or edge residential development…….. so the youth who have grown up in a big-box” society don’t favor that development style… should I use a ! or a ? Or more specifically, the six teens who came to the April meeting and were at the table I was at, did not favor that development style…….

    I think it is not helpful to constantly talk about people being shut out of the communication process when they have effectively shut themselves out by not taking advantage of any of the possibilities offered for their input.

    June 14, 2007
  91. David Ludescher said:

    Given Tracy and Ross’s position that the Development Principles will not be altered, regardless of additional public input, and the merits of the additional input, it seems rather futile to engage in a discussion of how or why they should be changed.

    However, given the statement that the Development Principles will be an important part of the development of the Comp Plan, I see no choice for the Chamber but to try to find alternative methods of being a real and effective representative of business, and indirectly, the people.

    I would continue to extend the olive branch to the Planning Commission. Please understand that we cannot accept, at face value, the promises that the business voice will be incorporated into the Comp Plan. We have been told that the Development Principles are not intended to be anti-business. We can’t wait around for a Comp Plan that mirrors the Development Principles, only to be told that it too is not anti-business.

    For these reasons, the Chamber has invited the NDDC and the EDA into a discussion for the purposes of addressing what we believe are the mutual concerns of the business community, and how best to present these concerns.

    June 14, 2007
  92. Paul Fried said:

    Kiffi and Anne:
    Speaking of big box schools, and teens raised in a big box society, but who prefer something else:

    Check this URL on Student Learning in Small Schools:
    http://www.wkcd.org/specialcollections/student_learning/resources.html

    Does the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Kathleen Cotton’s 1996 study on small schools, ridicule big box schools? (No.)
    Do they praise the efficiency of big box schools? (No.)
    Do they suggest that smaller can be better? (Yes.)

    June 14, 2007
  93. Tracy Davis said:

    Dave – I never said the development principles won’t be altered, and I don’t think Ross did either. How did you come to that conclusion?

    June 14, 2007
  94. Ross Currier said:

    David:

    Tracy and I were just talking yesterday at the Commission session with the consultants, wondering about missed messages or misunderstandings. Where you think that Tracy and I said that there would be no changes to the Development Principles is a mystery to me. In fact, the consultant is already working on changes to the Development Principles and I believe that we’ll see them in a couple of weeks.

    I also believe that we’ve tried to put these Principles in perspective several times before. Clearly we haven’t succeeded in communicating, at least with you. I’ll try again to get us to keep these Principles in perspective. These principles will be part of the guiding values for the creation of one chapter of the Comprehensive Plan.

    I would strongly recommend that you shift your writing talents from newspaper articles and website comments into the long-promised specific, written recommendations to the Planning Commission regarding the Development Principles. If they included action steps, they might actually contribute to increasing the business-friendliness of Northfield.

    I look forward to receiving these recommendations.

    Ross

    June 14, 2007
  95. David Ludescher said:

    I understood that the work had already begun on using the Principles to develop the Comp Plan, that additional public input was not needed, that the Principles were not going to be altered, and that the comments made here and other places were going to be considered when the Comp Plan was developed.

    Perhaps Ross or Tracy could advise on what will be done with the Chamber’s draft principles if they are presented to the Planning Commission. Please offer us some assurances that doing so is not just an writing exercise, but is part of the ongoing process to develop the best possible Comp Plan.

    Regarding the comments on newspaper articles and the website comments – I would not do so if I did not believe that it was my duty as Chamber President to do so. Please be assured that no personal affronts are intended, and I would apologize if they were so taken.

    June 14, 2007
  96. v summa said:

    QUOTING ROSS to David Ludescher

    I would strongly recommend that you shift your writing talents from newspaper articles and website comments into the long-promised specific, written recommendations to the Planning Commission regarding the Development Principles. If they included action steps, they might actually contribute to increasing the business-friendliness of Northfield.

    I agree……

    Arguably Ross and Tracy – as members of the Plan Commission should not even have to participate in this public dialogue… as in many ways, they are the subject of the discourse. It seems most of Anne’s and David’s fears are that the Plan Commission will unwrap them in public!

    Now, I know Tracy & Ross will be ballistic at this suggestion… that their voices should be silent… but it would be interesting to see if those two could hold their responses… except the dazzling duo (Anne&David) seem to frequently take remarks out of context… or, attribute remarks that were never made to specific persons.

    I understand both Ross’ and Tracy’s needs to chime in, as they like others feel their values being attacked. Still they (the Plan commission) are the first level of empowered revamp on the Comp Plan review, so perhaps they should listen and not talk so much… that reduces the legitimate participants here to the following:

    Anne Bretts and David Ludescher , two malcontents who feel their voice is not represented in the numbers of those who participated in the public meetings, so they want unequal time to bolster their Point of View. A POV I might add, which doesn’t appear to have a lot of support… although we’ve been told, support is coming. Look around.

    But, give them credit…. They are relentless, and they read the predominate voices as not agreeing with them… so understandably, to the extent they can continue to fill the conversation with BOGUS AIR TIME, they will.

    If the rest of you would sign off, do you suppose the two of them would continue the dialogue alone. Do trees in the forest make a noise when they fall?

    A side bar of possible interest here is where does David get the time to spew these annotated arguments. Someone might be paying big bucks for the bellowing barristers time wasted here in a pursuing a lost cause. As for Angry Anne… well, we know she’s no longer the voice of the other E rag… as I recall, said her personal time was limited, so “sayonara”…. and she has repeatedly threatened to drop off this thread… but alas she’s not true to her word.

    But, I was listing participants… which include: first but not last, of course Griff the pot boiler – Mr. G hasn’t added too much, evidently contented to let the other voices bubble… and bubble they have…

    Then There’s :
    Paul Fried… one of six who continually write rationally about values.

    Include with Paul:

    Bill Ostrem

    Jerry Bilek, another one

    Kiffi Summa, still another and my personal favorite

    Peter Waskiw. A professional planner. How many of you know Peter was a City Planner here in Northfield until he ran a foul of Susan Hoyt. That alone gives credibility.

    Betsy Buckheit – a former PC Chair and one I’d say who is frustrated by the discourse, and like myself has only logged on a few times… I assume finding verbally beating on the malcontents the only choice, too unsettling.

    And now FROM Thailand….. Rick Estenson who signs on just to tell you all how articulate you all are. Did he mention manic?

    Lastly, I’d be disingenuous if I didn’t identify that with this post I have now commented twice in this thread. Two times, out of ninety four posts all to argue with Bretts and Ludicrous.

    My thoughtful friends, these two are not a threat, just a pain

    Ninety four posts and counting – and if you add in all the “quotes from posts” that figure likely increases by at least half. One hundred and fifty or so comments,

    By my count, from:
    6 reasonable voices
    2 malcontents
    The pot boiler
    The Pro
    Two Plan commissioners SIDE BAR ( might worry about the other five from whom we’ve not heard even a whimper. I’m not suggesting the five silent should log on – just pointing out that the pudding will be set with seven voices and I’m wondering if any of them are warmed by Anne and David’s diatribes?
    and me

    Here’s the skinny.

    The Principles of the Comp Plan should not be tampered with. We’re only going down the TAMPER PATH for two reasons – Staff drives the dialogue and the process because, it is what they do… And the Consultants have to validate their invoice.

    The discussion should be: Here are the principles upon which Northfield functions – (read past Comp Plan Principles sections). For decades, citizens who cared have gathered, first to create the document and next, to review it.

    While verbiage may shift… values hold.

    While some of the Comp Plan’s supporting legislation is dreadful and does require thoughtful review, repeal and updating, the basic principles should be set in stone. That is, until there is a holocaust and we start all over…

    I’m not inviting Anne or David to my holocaust.

    victor

    June 14, 2007
  97. Tracy Davis said:

    Dave, because of the volume of work involved in this endeavor, each part of it (principles, map, plan chapters, maybe even ordinances) is being shaped as we go along. However, the assumption is that they will all be re-shaped as the process progresses.

    At the Planning Commission meeting this week, it was determined that the draft principles will be reviewed/revised/reviled at the next meeting on June 26.

    I can assure you that if the Chamber gets its comments to staff and planning commission members by Thursday 6/21 (before the agenda and packet items go out to the commissioners on Friday), they will be discussed and considered at the next Planning Commission meeting.

    June 14, 2007
  98. Tracy Davis said:

    Victor, I love you man, but if you think I’m going to shut up, you’ve got another think coming. 🙂

    You wrote:

    The Principles of the Comp Plan should not be tampered with. We’re only going down the TAMPER PATH for two reasons – Staff drives the dialogue and the process because, it is what they do… And the Consultants have to validate their invoice.

    That’s cute, but unfair. The main impetus behind revising the principles isn’t so much because the existing ones are necessarily bad, but becaue they aren’t actionable, and the whole point is to remedy the current situation whereby our ordinances require something different from both what our Future Land Use Map and Comp Plan say we want. But in reviewing the ordinances, it’s simply the responsible thing to do to verify/validate whether the principles and Comp Plan chapters would be better/stronger/more workable if modified.

    The discussion should be: Here are the principles upon which Northfield functions – (read past Comp Plan Principles sections). For decades, citizens who cared have gathered, first to create the document and next, to review it. While verbiage may shift… values hold.

    I agree. I think we’ve determined that all the work that went into producing the 2000 Comp Plan is still valid, and we don’t have dramatically different conclusions. I would argue that the current plan has never been able to be put into action – it’s all just talk – and what we’re trying to do now is give it some muscle, and foster the kind of growth and development envisioned by the plan that is economically, environmentally, and socially beneficial for the community.

    So there.

    June 14, 2007
  99. kiffi summa said:

    I SWEAR this is my last comment……… The reason we need to revise the current Comp Plan is this: After it was written, there were development violations of its INTENT, if not in actuality, no, I take that back; the C-3 Highway ordinances were violated with some construction around the big T site. Then with the current Comp Plan in place, a consultant was brought in by the then city admin. who rewrote the commercial ords., including the C-3, to validate what had now been built, on the ground, and that allowed the development of the highway in small-bay units, rather than the large equipment or automobile accessible businesses that were described before in those C-3 , highway ords.

    So….that made a ordinance framework that was out of synch with the contextual intent of the Comp Plan….Hence the need for revision now, to bring the INTENT and ordinance REALITY into a contextual whole!

    You’ll all be glad to note that I will not be commenting until after the 6.26 PC Meeting.

    Happy Surfing on the Cannon!

    June 14, 2007
  100. victor summa said:

    I too won’t comment after this – Always follow the spouses lead!

    I’ll just reiterate Kiffi’s accurate summary. Frankly Howard, we were there and really, none of you were…

    As Kiffi said parens added by victor

    The reason we need to revise the current Comp Plan is this: the C-3 Highway ordinances were violated with some construction around the big T site. Then with the current Comp Plan in place, a consultant (DSU) was brought in by the then city admin. who rewrote the commercial ords., including the C-3, to validate what had now been built, on the ground, (and preferred by DSU) and that allowed the development of the highway in small-bay units, rather than the large equipment or automobile accessible businesses that were described before in those C-3 , highway ords.

    So…that made a ordinance framework that was out of synch with the contextual intent of the Comp Plan….Hence the need for revision now, to bring the INTENT and ordinance REALITY into a contextual whole!

    Happy Surfing on the Cannon!

    Kiffi ended w/that. Do you suppose she meant take a long walk on a short pier? I’d add that various other tamperings went into effect – for example, removal of the Neighborhood Commercial Nodes. dumbing down of the DT expansion possibilities (south to Woodley)

    As to Tracy’s summary of WHY – sorry, I love you too… but you are caught off base!

    The principles are not the problem. Problem was the staff and the consultants and their manipulation (writing) of the missing ordinances that seemingly skewed the principles. Is there possibly better text? Possibly. T’would have been a better path for today’s PC to take the existing text and tweak that… present it to the public for appraisal and comparison then you’d not be exposed to the accusations you’ve experienced here and you’d have a less expensive retrofix of just the inappropriate ordinances.

    My memory serves me very well. The consultant and the senior staff and the noncombatant council choose to go the path of bad process.

    In my view, DSU abused their responsibility to enable our new Comp Plan and set themselves up as arbitrary dictators of what Northfield should be.

    Last remark: And, I’m not trashing the current consultant’s effort or process… it is simply fact the Community Input process used in 1999 was far superior to that which we have today The outcome was strongly reflective of the community input sessions (I believe there were three… maybe four…) and then with that material in hand, a task-force of some 20 was set up and worked for months with the consultant.

    Now you want to wordsmith the principles – and D&B want to scuttle them.

    Tracy, you said

    ……. the current situation whereby our ordinances require something different from both what our Future Land Use Map and Comp Plan say…

    future landuse map – zoning and ordinances… all of these are subject to revision. The Principles are not!

    last tag!

    June 14, 2007
  101. Tracy Davis said:

    Victor, I think you said the same thing I did, but were a lot windier about it. Let me see if I can summa-rize your point accurately: The existing comp plan (2000) principles were developed with a terrific public input process that was much more extensive that what we’re doing now.

    My answer: Correct. We don’t have to re-invent this comp plan wheel, just confirm that it’s still an accurate reflection of the community before proceeding with what really needs to be redone (the ordinances). Although I don’t disagree with your assessment of ways things went awry after the last plan, I don’t think it’s terribly relevant now, because I’m convinced that it was our crappy, regressive, outdated, pieced-together-with-duct-tape-and-baling-wire land development regs that were REALLY the problem. Possibly the evil trolls who controlled things last time could have made a mess out of really good ordinances too, but I suspect they (and the damage) could have been a lot more constrained if our regs and maps were consistent with what the comp plan indicated.

    So maybe we disagree about what the “real” problem was last time, but I think we agree that

    1) The last comp plan was the product of a really good process and doesn’t need an overhaul

    and I hope we agree that

    2) Our existing land developent regulations (ordinances) are really bad and DO need an overhaul.

    June 14, 2007
  102. David Ludescher said:

    I was not aware that the Planning Commission decided to revisit the Principles at the 6/26 meeting.

    The invitation is accepted. Modified principles will be into staff by 6/21 per your request. We would further request an opportunity to speak Principles. Can we get on the agenda?

    June 14, 2007
  103. victor summa said:

    I lied – cause here I go. No we don’t agree. maybe as to the hoped for outcome – but not about the process –

    You said:

    1) The last comp plan was the product of a really good process and doesn’t need an overhaul

    but earlier you said

    We don’t have to re-invent this comp plan wheel, just confirm that it’s still an accurate reflection of the community before proceeding with what really needs to be redone (the ordinances).

    It’s the so called confirmation that it still is an accurate reflection of the community…. etc.

    That subjects the value and principles to reassessment. I believe that if the detractors of the process toward an ongoing PLAN see weaknesses in the CP, then they should be at the open mic and the editorial page and lobbying their CtyCouncil person for change. Since the only change you want is Detailed measures that fit the Principles… why have we been subjected to all this…

    Anne and David likely would never have even looked at the principles if the first public meeting didn’t lead them down that track… Was David at the first one? Was Anne at either?

    I don’t think so – but they sure have been hauling fuel about the community’s values.

    Background:

    In 1997 or ’98, as a candidate for City Council, David spoke against the Liveable Communities Initiative… saying “I’ve read that document and it should be trashed. At least he’s consistent. Even though he lost the election (so did I… I’m very consistent!) he was appointed to fill a vacancy by a less than progressive Council and that Council set aside the LCI as even a guiding policy. For decades our leadership has consistently failed to ever make policy out of progressive concepts… always (almost always – never say never) they vote to accept the concept but stop short of activating it. Thus the opening for a City Administrator and a bevy of consultants to turn the town into Apple Valley

    Am I a fan? Nooooooooo.

    But you are right……

    “we agree that

    1) The last comp plan was the product of a really good process and doesn’t need an overhaul

    and we agree…

    2) Our existing land development regulations (ordinances) are really bad and DO need an overhaul.

    3) I never really thought I could shut you up – an in-fact don’t want too… just enjoy the banter!

    June 14, 2007
  104. The Credible Pro said:

    You know I think Victor allowed me a really good entry back into the conversation……again.

    He mentioned the word credibility. That really is an interesting word when we think about it. It denotes that a person has both objective and subjective ability to comment on a given issue. With the ability of allowing the information to be accepted and believable from both sides.

    David should understand the words subjective and objective very well. The law uses these words with regards to the subjective and objective mind as various tests applied by the Courts.

    So what are the traits of a credible person? It is having the expertise from either a technical understanding on an issue or from an expertise level, that is, from actually living it. This obviously is the objective component of being credible.

    What about the subjective quality associated to the opinion? Would we trust someones opinion if they said “in my personal opinion I believe….”. Well yes, under the credible definition we would, because we know that person also has the experience to back up their personal beliefs. The credible persons beliefs are trusted as being of high quality. Who is the person that does the trusting, it’s the person receiving the information.

    It’s the same with decision makers such as the Planning Commission and City Council. What makes a decision credible in the eyes of the staff, ordinary citizen, business person? Rather than cynical. Are the Planning Commission and City Council members credible in the eyes of public opinion. Remember there are both subjective and objective tests to this trait.

    How would the Planning Commission’s credibility be damaged if they didn’t follow the comp plan or the ordinance and in who eye’s would this matter. In my opinion, that what we are really debating here. There are both ethical and integrity issues rooted in this discussion that drive the debate. So when a person says “I can not trust you”, are really saying your credibility is low with me because Case 1) I do not know if what you say is true or Case 2) If I did believe you, how do I know you will do what you say.

    On more than one occasion, decision makers have failed to follow the comp plan as it stands now, it its present form. Will the existing process correct the problem. Possibly not. Not because I do not believe in the principles of planning, Case 1) above, but because of Case 2) above.

    So thank you Victor. I do believe you, I am credible pro.

    June 14, 2007
  105. David Ludescher said:

    If someone, perhaps Credible Pro, could explain the last post. What is the connection with the Comp Plan?

    June 15, 2007
  106. v's Personal Favorite: said:

    With reference to the question in 105,which refers back to the relevance of comment 104 by the credible pro; the credible pro was there at the time that the highway ords were re-written.

    Tracy:if you read the “old” highway ords,they WERE absolutely in synch with the 2000 comp plan; they did NOT allow small-bay development on the highway.

    It was only after the initial small bay development was on the ground,that the ords had to be re-written,by DSU, to make them “whole/legal”.

    I swear it’s true!!!!!

    June 19, 2007
  107. The "Credible Pro" said:

    Victor
    You are absolutely correct. The development was “allowed” by the PC and CC despite the conflict with the ORDs!! and the Comp Plan.!!

    THEN, the ORDs were amended to reflect the development by the consultants.

    ……….we can’t have any non-conforming developments running around out there, especially if they were just newly built……

    Perhaps, we could hear from some PC and CC members who were involved in those decisions to explain why they supported or did not support these developments. It would make a great learning experience for current PC and CC members and help them correct some of the ‘credibility’ issues associated with the decision making process.

    June 19, 2007
  108. David Ludescher said:

    I remember being on the City Council when Target was considering coming to Northfield.

    The City Council directed the Planning Commission to come up with revisions to the Comp Plan which took into consideration the possibility of the Target. We (the CC) were told that it would take up to 18 months. We considered that to be a stall tactic, and directed them again to fulfill their role to the Council.

    When they came back a second time and refused to make the modifications, we decided to do it ourselves by creating a special district. It was far from the best solution. Then again, the CC didn’t have the time to do the job to which we directed the PC.

    If I recall correctly, about the same time, the matter went to a referendum, which eventually passed. Once again, if I recall correctly, the Planning Commission decided that we needed a Comp Plan. I think that this was the impetus for the 2000 Plan.

    We might be too far down the line, but it might be worthwhile to consider if the disparity between the Comp Plan and the ordinances could be corrected by bringing the Comp Plan in line with the ordinances, or bringing the ordinances in line with the Comp Plan. The approach taken seems to be to draft a new Comp Plan, and then new ordinances also.

    The answer may lie in analyzing whether the development that has occurred outside of the parameters of the Comp Plan are, on the whole, good or bad for Northfield.

    So, I ask you – are the new Middle School and new hospital good or bad for Northfield? Does the answer turn on whether the development is a public or private facility? What are the criteria that make some developments “good” and others “bad”?

    Whatever we do, let’s try to keep the politics out of the equation. We need to rely upon good planning techniques, as well as reflecting upon the common good for Northfield.

    June 19, 2007
  109. Griff Wigley said:

    We’ve gotten a little lax here re: the use of pseudonyms — probably because it’s been a fairly small group of contributors who know each other.

    But there are lots of others following this conversation so just in case anyone’s wondering who these jokesters are:

    “v’s Personal Favorite” = Kiffi Summa

    “The Credible Pro” = Peter Waskiw

    June 20, 2007
  110. Jane McWilliams said:

    Terrific conversation, folks.

    David, as I told you at the public meeting, I liked your comments, and am delighted that they have provoked this discussion. The final version of the comp plan will be the better for your having called attention to what seems to have been an imbalance of values and for having challenged us to think in broader terms.

    Jane (a no longer “silent voice.”)

    June 20, 2007
  111. David Ludescher said:

    Thank you Jane for those kind and encouraging words. I was beginning to question the wisdom of opening my mouth at the meeting and on Locally Grown. If it makes for a better Comp Plan, then it will have been worth the effort.

    June 21, 2007
  112. Peter Waskiw said:

    David
    As per you coment above, good to see it…

    Can we dicuss good planning techniques with good planning principles with good planning process?
    Knowing your experience professionally and your role at the Chamber, I am curious about how you measure or define “Good”?

    For me it’s a measure of an outcome.

    June 21, 2007
  113. Ross Currier said:

    David:

    Griff, Tracy and I praised and thanked you on our podcast yesterday and publicly expressed our hope that you’ll continue to participate (and speak out) as we move through the Comp Plan (and Zoning Ordinances) process.

    Ross

    June 21, 2007
  114. David Ludescher said:

    I’m not sure that I have a good answer to the question of what constitutes “good” in terms of principles, techniques, or process.

    I would describe “good” as being “fair”. If all of the components of the development of the system are fair, then the result should be one that everyone would recognize as good.

    From a Chamber perspective, the question to the PC is, “If you were a business owner, what would be fair to you?”.

    June 21, 2007
  115. Peter Waskiw said:

    Ross and Tracy
    As the chair and members of the PC, and having the role of determining and faciliating an actual decision for a group of “citizen” planners, how would you define what is “Good” with regards to the principles, techniques, or process of planning here in Northfield?

    June 21, 2007
  116. Peter Waskiw said:

    David,
    Not all business owners or business’s are the same, so is not fairness subjective in the context of commercial ventures vs the individual? Does a large big box retailer consider the same issues as a small downtown retailer? Does a commercial development downtown face the same issues as a commercial development along the highway?

    If fairness is a measure of “good”, then shouldn’t the playing field where the issue of fairness is determined demonstrate the application of fairness to all? Has the PC or CC demonstrated they are fair to all?

    I think the playing field has been discussed in this thread and obviously some think that the playing field is not fair.

    Would fairness be a better measure of justice more than planning? Although, the idea is appealing in a libertarian sort of way.

    June 21, 2007
  117. David Ludescher said:

    I think that fairness in the principles involves 3 main factors: it has to be honest, balanced, and practical.

    By honesty, we have to admit of the truth of what is or will happen. For example, subdivisions where all the houses look alike are cheaper. There are economies of scale. Some people would prefer a less expensive house even though it looks like the neighbor’s house.

    By balanced, I mean principles that don’t favor one subjective value over another. Looking nice or like Old Northfield is a subjective value. Favoring greenspace without imposing the economic cost on the residents who want it is not balanced.

    By practical, I mean that it is actually going to work. People aren’t going to walk more because we identify sidewalks as a value. They will walk more when cars are taken away.

    Outcomes are the objective measure of whether we have achieved our goals. In that sense, I like the idea of working backwards from land use maps to our values. At least we can discuss some tangible thing rather than discussing hard to define values or philosophies to planning.

    Without identifying what we intend to achieve, I think that we are going to have a difficult time identifying the ends, let alone the means to get there.

    June 21, 2007
  118. Peter Waskiw said:

    The traditional model or process that’s being used places pressure on the idea of working backwards “…the idea of working backwards from land use maps to our values…”

    Although from my experience in the field of transportation planning, it makes perfect sense. First, set a vision, than work out a way to get there, with all the subjective and objective issues in the mix. Perhaps, the idea of blending visions is also important. For example, it’s very hard to work with someone when they do not have a vision of what they want, just what they don’t want.

    To a certain extent, the form based codes do lay out a vision based on design, rather than land use. However, it would seem that they try and correlate the design to a certain design. The danger is the issues related to design code vs the economic realities and choices you speak about. There needs to be a balance with regards to the type of land uses, where they go and how they are sequenced. By the way, is it fair to move public uses out to the urban expansion boundary to those that do not have cars, or who can not drive, or cannot afford to have cars, or perhaps would rather walk if given the choice? Is not choice a measure of fairness? (I especially like your comment related sidewalks. Do not sidewalks offer a neighborhood and community benefit rather than an individual preference?)

    Even though we may not totally agree on outcomes, the ability to agree on something allows the framework (comp plan, ordinance, codes etc) to be developed to ensure that the vision (on a map) can be measured against a development. SO the real benefit is that the comp plan, ordinance, codes etc, become the measure. Hang on…I thought we already do that or tried to that, (read posts 99, 100, 107 and of course the honest but misguided comment in 98.)

    June 21, 2007
  119. Paul Fried said:

    David:
    I’m still having a hard time with a credibility issue here on a number of fronts:

    1. You say in 115 that good is “fair.” But it seems you want the invisible hand to determine where businesses can locate, which means something like free a free market approach — don’t restrict business (but that doesn’t sound fair to those citizens who don’t own businesses). You comment that the quaint downtown that many value was a sort of haphazard development (we agree on that point). So you’re asking that it be haphazard again, and that will be fair? And the process so far has not been fair to business owners because so many non-business-owning citizens had so much input so far? In the end, the position you advocate just doesn’t sound fair.

    2. In 118 you assume that “subdivisions where all houses look alike are cheaper.” Not necessarily. Some here have been talking about higher density, smaller lots, and this brings the price down.

    3. Also in 118, you speak of balance. You say “Favoring greenspace without imposing the economic cost on the residents who want it is not balanced.” But higher density can bring costs down, and green space (a park?) doesn’t need all the costly infrastructure that a developed area. You seem to assume too much about the cost of green space. There are high costs associated with sprawl, too; more use of cars, which put more wear on roads (than sidewalks and bikes). It seems sprawl imposes economic costs too.

    4. In 118 you speak of honesty and admitting the truth, but your vision of the truth seems somewhat one-sided in light of the above, and therefore imbalanced. You seem to refuse to consider the practical benefits of some of the views you oppose (your third point).

    5. In 111 you recommend, “Whatever we do, let’s try to keep the politics out of the equation.” I’m not sure what you mean by “politics” — anyone’s views that disagree with your own? It seems you’re conducting quite a campaign here in the name of the chamber, and that certainly could be seen as politics. And your own libertarian-leaning, free market views certainly may represent some of the views of chamber members, but not all. What is “politics” in the context of your recommendation?

    June 21, 2007
  120. Griff Wigley said:

    David, were you able to get some written recommendations to the Planning Commission in time to be included in the packet that goes out today in preparation for next week’s meeting?

    Could you email them to me so we can put them up here for discussion?

    June 22, 2007
  121. David Ludescher said:

    In response to Griff’s request on the Chamber’s requested modification to the Development Principles:

    The short answer is – You can’t have them yet. The long answer is listed below.

    First, staff from the City requested that the Chamber work within the confines of the existing document to promote moving forward with one document. Rather than creating a Chamber document, we created, what we hoped, would be a document acceptable to the entire community.

    The proposed modifications were made and approved by the Chamber Board. In speaking with staff at the City, we requested the opportunity to formally present these principles to the Planning Commission. Staff advised that the consultants were preparing a revised document. This document was going to be included in the Planning Commission packet. I understand that the Planning Commission packet may also include the Chamber’s copy.

    Staff’s point, if I understand correctly, is that they need to be able to manage the process if it is going to go forward. If other organizations drafted their own priniciples, and the Chamber was already given an agenda slot, then everyone else would want equal time.

    I told staff that I would respect their judgment in the presentation of our viewpoint. I trust that our principles will get a fair hearing, whether as principles in and of themselves (unlikely) or a as critique of the ones now drafted.

    I have no objection to publishing them here for public debate. But, someone else needs to get them and present them if I am to honor my commitment to staff.

    June 22, 2007
  122. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks for the follow-up, David. I know some people on the Planning Commission who owe me some favors. 😉

    June 22, 2007
  123. David Ludescher said:

    For those who have been following this discussion:

    On Tuesday, the Planning Commission reviewed and essentially approved a final Development Principles document.

    In my opinion, and based upon the Chamber’s Development Principles, the revised document is a significantly improved document. The values represented are stated in more objective terms; there is more aspirational, and less mandatory, language dictating how to achieve results; a broader segment of the community, especially the business community is included; and many social values will be removed and inserted in other portions of the community building process.

    Also, the Planning Commission took a significant, albeit contentious, step forward in establishing an advisory group to make comments on the practicalities of implementing the principles and the Comp Plan. This group, composed of those who deal continuously with the land use regulations, will add the wisdom of experience to the Planning Commission’ vision, if used in a positive manner by the PC.

    The new Principles address many of the concerns of the Chamber. Some concerns were accomplished with minor wordsmithing. Other concerns remain outstanding; but, capable of compromise at a future date when vision and reality meet.

    The new document is one that I would recommend that the Board approve. It represents a fair compromise of competing values. Hopefully, we can move forward with the Moravians’ motto – Unity in the essentials, liberty in our differences. (Or something like that.)

    June 29, 2007
  124. Griff Wigley said:

    Wow. That really sounds like a significant development, David. I’m inclined to say hooray and kudos to you and Ross and others who worked on this compromise. But I’ll restrain myself until I see the new draft. Any idea when it’ll be available?

    June 29, 2007
  125. Ross Currier said:

    Once David found out that I was an Anarchist and I found out that he was a Libertarian, compromise was quickly reached.

    😉

    Seriously, although it took eight weeks of back-and-forth, the Chamber did produce extensive comments that clarified their concerns and, in my opinion, helped to fine-tune the document sent on to the Council.

    I also think that Commissioner Ron Griffith deserves recognition for the work that he performed in “word-smithing” some of the Chamber’s ideas into the Principles.

    David and I agree, the document has been significantly improved by this process.

    June 30, 2007
  126. Tracy Davis said:

    From my perspective, the most valuable outcome was that the Chamber’s ongoing concern pointed out the gap between what was implicit and what was explicit in the draft principles, and suggested language to clarify points that needed to be made more strongly.

    The consultants, Planning Commission, and City staff had been discussing these principles off an on for many weeks, and the principles had undergone several tweaks before the draft was released. The nature of distilling ongoing discussions makes it likely that something might be missed. In this case, there were certain things implicit and “understood” in the draft principles which were not at all clear to anyone reading the draft for the first time, i.e. anyone who hadn’t been a part of the ongoing conversations prior to their formation.

    The Chamber’s suggestions highlighted the issue, and their suggested language for making certain points explicit rather than implicit was necessary and helpful. We have a better document for that.

    July 2, 2007
  127. David Ludescher said:

    Griff – My understanding is that the new draft of the Principles would be ready for Planning Commission review at the end of last week or beginning of this week. Based upon the discussion, I was led to believe that revisions would be sent via email, and Planning Commission approval was a formality.

    July 2, 2007
  128. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks, folks. As soon as someone gets notification that the draft is available, please post it or a link here.

    July 2, 2007
  129. Ross Currier said:

    David Ludescher –

    Are you still out there?

    Did you see the Wall Street Journal this morning (Thursday, January 24th)?

    There was an article (“Bill Gates Issues Call for Kinder Capitalism”) that referenced your favorite author, Adam Smith.

    In a discussion about either using capitalism to solve the problems of poverty or tweaking capitalism so it is more aware of the opportunities of poverty, the piece says that Gates cites not only Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations”, but an earlier work called “The Theory of Moral Sentiments”.

    Gates argues that capitalism, and capitalists, can both pursue profits and take an interest in the “fortunes of others”.

    Maybe the Coen brothers can bring together both volumes in a movie…

    …shot in Northfield.

    – Ross

    January 24, 2008
  130. David Ludescher said:

    Ross – Yes, I am still out there – some would say way out there, but …

    If you have a cite, I would like to see what he says.

    January 25, 2008
  131. Paul Fried said:

    Dave: Here’s the URL for the recent WSJ article on Gates:
    http://online.wsj.com/public/article_print/SB120113473219511791.html

    Gates and Warren Buffett often sing the same tune. What do these rich guys know about economics that many of the rest of us don’t?

    IMO: The New Deal, the GI Bill and war spending put people to work during the depression and created the middle class (many happy consumers). Best things that ever happened to American capitalism during the 20th Century.

    “Economic stimulus packages” and temporary spark-plugs are not enough. Investing in infrastructure (better than war spending) puts people to work (and unlike war spending, leaves us with more lasting value instead of bone-yards of outdated war-planes and warehouses of unused weapons). Taxing the rich to accomplish it is OK, and in fact, in the best interests of the rich, and of corporate America.

    But they have to be willing to delay gratification enough to work for sustainable economic gains.

    If Adam Smith were alive today, I think he’d agree. But because he’s not, I have to talk to a guy in New Orleans (middle name of “Voodoo”) who claims to converse with him now and then….

    January 25, 2008