Ideas for Winona’s future focus on housing, suggest revisiting bluff, 30% rules | New
by CESAR SALAZAR
After a summer of lively discussions, the Winona City Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee met again on September 8 to get a recap of some of the ideas from the Comprehensive Plan subcommittees for the future of Winona. Their ideas will help city officials draft a new comprehensive plan.
The overall plan and committees aim to set goals and direction for the future of Winona. Twelve different subcommittees deal with topics ranging from housing and neighborhoods to heritage preservation and government accessibility, and seven of those committees presented their drafts to the steering committee on September 8.
Housing and neighborhood subcommittee
The first presenting subcommittee was the Housing and Neighborhoods Subcommittee, which used the city’s 2016 housing study to guide its work. “You will see a lot of differences in opinions and differences in priorities, but they have all gelled around a strong focus on neighborhood cohesion as we seek to increase housing choice and look for ways to add density in a respectful, collaborative, and community-centered way,” said subcommittee member Amanda Hedlund.
Ideas presented by the subcommittee included relaxing or changing zoning laws around the city to allow for more housing development and support affordable housing for low-income Winonans, first-time home buyers and the homeless. The subcommittee also recommends that the city assess the 30% rule around Winona State University.
Land Use Planning Sub-Committee
Land Use shared some of the sentiments and ideas with the Housing and Neighborhood Subcommittee. “…Probably the most important thing that we talked about in our land use subcommittee was flexibility: flexibility for development, flexibility for housing,” said subcommittee member Steve Young and member of the city council.
The land use subcommittee proposed that the city could condense land use designations from 19 to 13, “thicken” housing density by allowing owner-occupied duplexes and triplexes in more parts of the city, facilitating new residential subdivisions while balancing development and the environment, and the expansion of mixed-use areas on Highway 43 and County Road 44. This included recommendations for evaluating protection rules city bluffs.
Economic Development Sub-Committee
The next sub-committee focused on expanding Winona’s economic presence in the area by attracting new residents to the area. “I think that’s probably our most important [goal] if we really want to see economic growth in and around Winona: how do we get more people here? Subcommittee member Mike Dieter asked in his presentation. Dieter pointed to the number of people in the room who moved to Winona because of its attractions and said the city should publicize these assets.
The objectives presented by the economic development sub-committee included the establishment of a campaign to attract residents similar to Think Eau Claire. Essentially, the goal would be to give people a reason to move to Winona.
The second goal is to provide a strong community culture for businesses to put down roots here, which could include businesses offering onsite child care services similar to Kwik Trip in La Crosse, Wis.
Another goal was to start adopting electric vehicle charging stations in the city for travelers, which would allow travelers to spend their money in Winona while waiting for their vehicle to charge. Dieter added that EV adoption is approaching and Winona could attract visitors while the rest of the state catches up.
Heritage Preservation Sub-Committee
The Heritage Preservation Sub-Committee aims to educate the public about the historical significance of Winona’s buildings and neighborhoods. “We have historic homes and buildings that would be great for tourism and attract people,” said subcommittee member Aaron Perleberg. “A lot of the things we’re talking about here are outreach, education and outreach to current owners.”
Some of the ideas presented by the subcommittee included adding signs to historic homes or neighborhoods that would provide details of the historical significance of those areas; recognize, create and communicate financial incentives for reinvestment in historic neighborhoods and properties; and the establishment of ordinances to address and prevent the negligent demolition of buildings. Negligent demolition refers to historic properties falling into such disrepair that they must be demolished.
The goals drafted by the transportation subcommittee were to address some of the issues that some Winonans are currently facing. “We want the compensation plan to prioritize making Winona transportation accessible to all of its users; transit of vehicles, bikes and walkers,” said subcommittee member Mitch Johnson. “We would like to see the ideas that we have all come up with over the past 15 years being implemented.” Johnson referred to how the 2007 comprehensive plan’s transportation targets had not been met.
The transportation subcommittee’s goals included rerouting truck routes and establishing citywide walking and cycling trail networks to make the city much more accessible to non-motorized modes of transportation.
Accessible Government Sub-Committee
The other subcommittee at the comprehensive plan meeting was the Accessible Government Subcommittee, which seeks to facilitate communication and improve relations between the city and its residents. “The purpose of the sub-committee was to look at how communication can be facilitated and increased and how to bring more people into the fold of local government and what are we doing here?” said Winona city planner Carlos Espinosa.
According to subcommittee member Emily Kurash Casey, one of the subcommittee’s concerns was the lack of city staff who communicate directly with the public. The sub-committee has set itself the goal of creating a position or department responsible for the city’s communications with the public. It has also set itself the goal of making it easier for Winonians to understand how the city and local government work and to present themselves to local offices and committees in order to have broader and more diverse participation in city functions. .
The next steps in the overall plan are to continue finalizing the draft targets. According to Espinosa, the intention is to have the project ready before the holidays. The overall plan steering committee is to hold a few more meetings to suggest changes or add comments to the current draft plan, as well as to hear from other sub-committees that didn’t show up that day later in September and October . City staff expect to conclude the overall planning process in the spring of 2023.