Introducing The Northwest Regional Development Commission

February 21, 2017 at 3:30 am Leave a comment


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For quite a while now, we have discussed the ills of regional planning as implemented by the Metropolitan Council. They issue faulty population projections, force light rail and Transit Oriented Development (TOD) on communities, and require one-size-fits-all comprehensive plans from Cities, under threat of discipline. Is the Met Council alone in their actions? Are there other regional planning groups in Minnesota that do the same type of work? Let’s explore… introducing the Northwest Regional Development Commission.

The commission was created in 1973 by local government units under the authorization of the Regional Development Act of 1969 . Like the Met Council, it is an unelected body with levy power to collect property taxes. It includes the counties of Kittson, Marshall, Norman, Pennington, Polk, Red Lake, and Roseau. It stretches all the way from the Northwest corner of the state, westward to the west shore of Lake of the Woods at Roseau, and southward to Perley. The commission has 35 representatives (Counties, Cities, Townships, School Districts, and special interest groups). These members set policy and direction for the commission. Monthly business is handled by an appointed board of directors (one member from each county and an at-large Chairperson).

What kinds of business does this group handle? Are they really some shadow government group that meets in a smoky back room to control an entire region of Minnesota? Well… no, not really. They do it right out in the open. They tackle aging, arts, economic development, emergency operations planning, business loans, community development, and transportation planning. Why we need a regional planning commission to tackle these issues in a part of the state that is so spread out, I’ll never know.

Let’s take a look at their community development program. They offer a number of services, including tourism promotion, GIS mapping for recreation promotion, art and culture promotion, grant writing, comprehensive planning, zoning and mapping for local government, disaster mitigation and recovery, regional planning and project management, and housing. There are five housing subgroups that deal with affordable housing (Inter-County Community Council, Northwest Community Action Agency, Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Multi-County Housing and Redevelopment Authority, and Northwest Regional Development Commission).

Transportation planning includes highway corridor studies, rail planning, port of entry issues, aeronautics planning, transit planning, scenic byways, regional road prioritizations, trails, and enhancements. The Commission handles transportation planning for Areawide Transportation Partnership (ATP) 2. They meet annually to develop and review a three-year Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP).

As you can see, there are many of the same facets to this regional planning body as to the Met Council: affordable housing, comprehensive planning, and transit. Now, does the NWRDC have the same iron-fist policy as the Met Council? How autonomous are the cities in this region? Those are questions that we’ll only begin to learn the answers to as we begin to review the comprehensive plans of the cities in that area. So stay tuned as we begin to uncover some of these hidden layers of government.

 

 

Jason Bradley is an entrepreneur in the music industry (Jason Bradley Live and Paper Lanterns Intl) and owns a consulting/advocacy/education firm that specializes in non-partisan politics (Community Solutions MN). Jason Bradley helps others to reach their goals in music and reduce the size and influence of government.

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