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Colfax Plan Commission begins Smart Growth update

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX —  The Colfax Plan Commission has started the year-long process of updating the village’s Smart Growth comprehensive land use plan, and along the way, they are hoping for suggestions from the public.

 A comprehensive land use plan is a “wish list” for the community that also needs an implementation plan so that at least some of the recommendations are addressed, said Patrick Beilfuss, a planner with Cedar Corporation who has been hired by the village board to help the plan commission update the Smart Growth plan.

Scott Gunnufson, village president and chair of the plan commission, said he hopes that as the plan commission goes through the process, village residents will feel free to make suggestions and to attend the plan commission meetings.

According to the state’s Smart Growth law, all municipalities that wished to continue making decisions about land use must have had a comprehensive land use plan in place by January 1, 2010.

The Smart Growth comprehensive plan for Colfax was adopted in 2002.

The Colfax Village Board approved hiring Beilfuss at the March 11 meeting to review and update the comprehensive plan.

The cost of updating the nine elements of the plan, along with creating and re-creating a variety of maps, is set not to exceed $15,800, with $7,900 designated for 2013 and $7,900 designated for 2014.

Ten years

State law requires that the comprehensive plans be updated at least every ten years.

Elements of a Smart Growth comprehensive plan include Issues and Opportunities; Housing; Transportation; Utilities and Community Facilities; Land Use; Agricultural, Natural and Cultural Resources; Economic Development; Intergovernmental Cooperation; and Implementation.

Recommendations for actions to be taken should be prioritized for short-term (five years), mid-term (ten years) and long-range (20 years), Beilfuss told the plan commission.

Priorities will be determined by a variety of factors, including the amount of money that is available, he said.

For example, if a street is new but one of the recommendations is to install a sidewalk, it would best to wait until it is time to reconstruct the street again, Beilfuss said.

The time frame for other action items might depend solely upon cost and whether the village can afford to do them, he said.

State law also now requires that zoning changes must be consistent with the comprehensive plan, Beilfuss said.

For example, if a certain area is designated in the Smart Growth plan for residential, the village could not rezone the lot for commercial without changing the land use plan first.

Rural or village

One of the trends that planners have been noticing in the last 20 years is that people prefer to live in rural areas where more space is available but also want to be close to a city or a village for retail stores or services, such as medical or dental, Beilfuss said.

The trend toward rural explains why some of the townships around Colfax, such as the Towns of Colfax, Elk Mound and Tainter, have grown much more than Colfax over the last 20 years.

According to demographic information that Beilfuss provided to the plan commission, the Town of Colfax has grown 73 percent since 1990, from a population of 685 to a population of 1,186 in 2010.

The Town of Elk Mound has grown by 132 percent, from 772 in 1990 to 1,792 in 2010.

The Town of Tainter has grown by 31 percent, from 1,768 in 1990 to 2,319 in 2010.

The Village of Colfax, on the other hand, went from 1,110 in 1990 to 1,158 in 2010, a growth rate of 4.3 percent.

Dave Hovre, plan commission member, noted that in 1958, just before the June 4 tornado, Colfax had a population of 1,044.

In the years after the tornado, the population dropped to 879, he said.


Priorities for communities have changed as well and are different now than they were 20 years ago, Beilfuss said.

People like to live in a small community where they can go for walks and feel safe or where they can walk to the grocery store, he said.

People also like to be able to participate in community events, Beilfuss noted.

If the Colfax Plan Commission determines that one of the goals is to increase the population of Colfax, there are actions that can be taken by the village board to do that, he said.

Gary Stene, plan commission member and former village president, said in years past, village residents have wondered why Colfax could not have a Bohemian Ovens or a Subway shop.

Those kinds of businesses require a certain population and/or a major highway, he said.

Increasing the population of Colfax is difficult because the village is land locked, and no land is available within the village limits for residential development, Hovre said.

The land around the new fire station could be residential, but perhaps with the railroad tracks so close, residential would not be the best use for that area, Stene said.

The village could buy land for residential development, although the purchase of land by a governing body is not a popular idea, Beilfuss said.

Hovre pointed out that lots in Hudson are selling for $90,000.

Stene noted that lots in the Somerset area are selling for $70,000 to $80,000.

“Developers can sell lots for that amount and come out ahead … they can’t do it here (in Colfax),” he said, adding that expensive lots would never sell in Colfax.

The village board should consider whether the village ought to buy lots and sell them to encourage residential growth in Colfax, Stene said.

Next meeting

The next meeting of the Colfax Plan Commission is scheduled for June 4 at 6:30 p.m. in the village hall.

Sometimes next year, after the plan commission has revised the nine chapters of the comprehensive land use plan, a review period will be set for the public to consider the proposed updated plan.

A public comment period also will be set, and a public hearing will be held within 30 days of a published notice.