By Barb Thoman, Executive Director
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Note: Public hearings April 10, 16. Public comment deadline April 28.
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Where will the 820,000 additional residents expected in the region by 2040 live and work? Will new homes and jobs be well served by transit and walking or will they be in locations served only by driving? Will new jobs and housing help to revitalize areas that need redevelopment or will they be located at the region’s edge consuming farmland and open space?
The answers to these and other questions will be greatly influenced by the Metropolitan Council’s new regional development plan, called Thrive MSP, which will replace the Regional Framework plan adopted in 2004. A recently released draft of Thrive MSP is out for public comment through the end of April.
Transit for Livable Communities and our allies have been following the process to develop Thrive MSP for some time. During the public engagement process for development of the draft plan, TLC has emphasized that Thrive should:
- Identify priority housing and job growth centers and establish zoning and density requirements for those centers, making them eligible for Council funding and services if they meet those requirements. (Seattle has modeled this approach.)
- Target the majority of new development to areas well served by existing and planned transit and areas with infrastructure already in place. Specific language in the Thrive MSP plan should allow the Council, when necessary, to require local communities through their local comprehensive plans to align planning and investment with the new regional goals.
- Identify very specific implementation strategies and performance measures.
We strongly support the plan’s intent to invest in and reduce the region’s racially concentrated areas of poverty. We disagree with the continued call for additional highway expansion. Thrive MSP should help achieve Minnesota’s goal to reduce climate change by setting and measuring goals for the percent of trips by transit, bicycling, and walking in our region; more compact development and higher densities will maximize the full potential of transit and bike/ped connections. Overall, we feel the lack of specificity in the draft makes it difficult to imagine how the plan’s important goals of sustainability, equity, prosperity, stewardship, and livability will be achieved. As we have outlined previously, other regions have created plans that go much farther in defining regional centers and maximizing investments. As a regional body, the Metropolitan Council needs to act boldly.
Here is a draft of the comment letter TLC will be submitting. We urge you to submit your own letter. You also have the opportunity to testify about the plan at one of two upcoming public hearings:
- April 10, 5 PM, F.T. Heywood Office Building, Minneapolis
- April 16, 5 PM, Met. Council Chambers, Saint Paul
Given the importance of the plan and how long it will likely be in effect, the time to weigh in is now.
Important numbers from Thrive:
• By 2040 the region is expected to add 824,000 new residents, increasing the region’s population to 3.67 million.
• Nearly 60 percent of the projected population increase by 2040 will be people over 65.
• The Council sets some development density expectations, but these are still very low (20 residential units per acre for the urban center, 5 for suburban).
• Per the draft plan, only half of expected growth will be in the urban center, urban cities, and inner suburban areas. The remainder is expected to be at densities of only 3-5 units per acre—in this context, moderate or high-frequency transit is not cost effective.
• Priority growth areas are not identified. The plan does identify 42 higher density centers.
For more on this topic, see our previous blogs in the Thrive MSP series:
• Thrive MSP: Good Policy Needed to Target Regional Growth
• This Spring: Influence Twin Cities Regional Development for the Next 30 Years
• Thrive MSP 2040: Why and How to Create a Shared Vision
• Top Ten Elements in Regional Plans: Our Peers Have Set a High Bar