Land Use 101
Land use decisions and designations in a community can seem mystifying. In Minnesota, land use is designated through the adopted comprehensive plan. The City of Shakopee’s last plan was completed in 2008 for 2030. We are currently updating that plan through Envision Shakopee, which will lead to the 2040 Comprehensive Plan adoption in 2019. The community, staff and consultants are working together to define what the community will look and feel like in 10, 20 years, which includes setting aside land for major employment centers, housing, commercial and recreation.
While a comprehensive plan designates land use, zoning is what allows the land use to actually occur. The city’s Planning Commission reviews all rezoning, plats and comprehensive plan changes before making recommendations to the City Council. Some zoning districts also allow applicants to apply for conditional use permits, which allow property owners or tenants to use the property for certain uses only under special requirements. In Shakopee, we have more than 50 uses in the zoning ordinance that have special requirements, from schools in commercial areas to massage establishments. The Board of Adjustment and Appeals (BOAA) – the same seven community members who serve on the Planning Commission – review such conditional uses. The BOAA can also grant variances to requirements based on a proven hardship not created by the applicant.
So how do residents find out about proposed changes in land use? If there is a project planned in your neighborhood, applicants are required to notify residents within 500 feet of the property and hold a neighborhood meeting. This is an opportunity to learn more about a project in an informal setting. Also, to increase transparency, the city now places notification signs on properties with large proposed projects. These signs designate what is happening, e.g., subdivision or rezoning, and include a contact number for more information.
To maintain transparency and open communication, all planning projects have a case manager that follows that project from initial concept to construction. The case manager is a great resource for being able to address your questions. And as a project moves forward for Planning Commission/BOAA and City Council approval, project memos with maps, drawings and often renderings, are posted on the city’s website as part of our meeting agendas.