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What Wadena needs

Photo by Rachelle Klemme. About 40 people participated in the public meeting at the M State cafeteria.

About 40 people showed up to a comprehensive plan open house at M State Thursday evening to take a survey on what people would like for the future of Wadena.

Brian Shorten, principal of SRF Consulting, said the survey was to look at land use, growth of the community, utility, parks, community facilities and other features.

"We want to see how the city wants to grow, and what direction it wants to grow, and what type of city it wants to be and the kind of housing it would like to see," he said. "We're very skilled planners and engineers, and we can help the city achieve a goal depending on whatever direction they want to go. This is an early meeting to get input, to learn from the citizens and how they want Wadena to look in the next 20 years."

He said that besides the comprehensive plan, they are simultaneously working on the transportation plan.

Participants strongly agreed that U.S. Highway 10 needs more lanes.

They also strongly agree that they frequently experience delay on the railroad tracks, and many also felt that train whistles detract from the quality of life and that planning for future railroad grade separations is very important.

A majority of participants disagreed or strongly disagreed that U.S. Highway 10 provided a positive image of Wadena as a place to live or visit, and the vast majority also agreed or strongly agreed that they would support city and county regulations to improve appearance of development.

The vast majority also supported enforcement of overall cleanliness and upkeep of properties in Wadena along with ordinances against tall weeds, junk and dilapidated buildings.

A majority agreed industrial sites should be required to provide landscape buffers or some other type of screening.

In terms of the economy, a majority strongly disagreed that there are enough jobs available in Wadena to retain or attract young adults once they complete their education.

Participants indicated that it is hard to get full time employment in Wadena, but easier to get part time employment.

Seventy-seven percent indicated that more jobs were needed and 23 percent indicated that more commercial and retail development was needed, over more single family homes or affordable housing.

Forty percent agreed the community has an adequate housing supply, and a majority indicated that older homes are overall in good condition, that post-tornado efforts to restore housing have met needs and that there is adequate affordable housing for senior citizens.

It was divided whether there was adequate affordable housing for young adults.

Services for senior citizens and proximity to family were chosen as characteristics making it favorable for retirees to stay in Wadena.

Participants indicated they would like the town's population to grow steadily and slowly, not stagnate or grow too quickly.

The majority agreed that it was very important to preserve the rural, agricultural environment surrounding Wadena.

For single-family residential developments, the look of a traditional block neighborhood was preferred over suburban cul-de-sacs and widely spaced country neighborhoods.

For commercial developments, traditional downtowns and suburban mix were preferred over the big box look or strip malls.

Forty percent of participants agreed that downtown Wadena meets at least half their need for goods and services, and participants were evenly divided on whether the city as a whole meets 90 percent of their need for goods and services.

Participants were divided on whether there were enough skilled and qualified workers to meet the needs of businesses, healthcare and educational institutions in the area.

They were divided on whether the costs of expanding streets and utilities to accommodate growth should be primarily paid by developers, new property owners or city taxpayers.

In terms of recreation, participants picked a splash park over a water slide park or a playground. The vast majority agreed that Wadena meets the community's need for parks that provide open space and recreational facilities.

Participants were somewhat divided on whether construction and maintenance of sidewalks and bike trails should be a higher priority than they are now.

The majority agreed there is a need to improve bicycle and pedestrian access to Blacks Grove Park.

Most said they feel safe walking or biking around Wadena.

A plurality strongly disagreed that Wadena meets the need for indoor recreational facilities.

Some questions were obvious - such as preferring that kids use crosswalks to get to the other side of the street, that trees and landscaping looked nicer than bare concrete, and that boulevard tree planting in new neighborhoods and tree replacement in old neighborhoods is important.

Other tidbits from the meeting included:

• A test question showed that a plurality of participants preferred Johnny Cash over The Beatles, Madonna, Elvis and the Rolling Stones.

• Results from October's transportation survey showed that U.S. Highway 10 had the most through traffic.

• 56 percent of westbound traffic entering Wadena and 54 percent of eastbound traffic entering Wadena had destinations within Wadena.

• Other highways had a higher percentage of internal traffic.

• Southbound U.S. Highway 71 entering Wadena and northbound U.S. Highway 71 entering Wadena had destinations within the town. Through trips were more common for northbound drivers than southbound drivers.

• 78 percent of eastbound Minnesota Highway 29 traffic entering Wadena and 79 percent of westbound Wadena County Road 4 entering Wadena had destinations within the town.

• Other statistics displayed at the meeting showed that Wadena's population decline can partly be attributed to a population shift toward other areas like Alexandria and Detroit Lakes, which have seen a great deal of growth in the last 20 years.

• The city's last comprehensive plan was developed in 1985.

• Other public meetings for the comprehensive plan will be held in April and August, with final plans to be presented to the city and county in September.