Community engagement 'key' to Worthington's updated comprehensive plan

“SRF’s process is rooted in listening to the community,” said Falker. “Engagement is really a key piece and will guide a lot of our decision-making.”

Comprehensive planning
A joint planning commission and Worthington city council meeting was held at the Worthington fire hall on May 24, 2023, where representatives of SRF Consulting Group presented an overview for the development of Worthington's updated comprehensive plan
Worthington City Staff

WORTHINGTON — After months of discussion, updates and consideration, Worthington’s mission to update the city’s Comprehensive Plan is underway, with members of the city council, Worthington Planning Commission, and representatives from SRF Consulting Group gathering on Wednesday afternoon for an overview of the project.

“I know it’s been a while since we’ve had a joint planning commission (and) council meeting,” said Community Development Director Matt Selof, “but what's more worthy than starting the comprehensive plan update project.”

The city council announced in April that the consulting firm, which specializes in community engagement, planning, and land development, was selected to assist with the new comprehensive plan. Project Manager Stephanie Falkers attended Wednesday's meeting to walk the council, city staff and planning commission members through the details, timeline and plans ahead.

“This is really an exciting time for the city,” Falkers said. “This is no small task, but it's a really fun opportunity for us to get out and engage with the community.”

Over the next year, the city, in partnership with SRF Consulting Group, will work to create an updated comprehensive plan. The plan acts as a guide for city policy and future community development through the determination of land use and ordinances.


“The land use guidance that we have in a comprehensive plan needs to inform our zoning decisions” Falker explained. “If we were to look at the zoning of this property, it needs to align with what we have for the land use perspective… Also, the specific development regulations that we established within our zoning ordinance should align with the comprehensive plan.”

Metro areas around the Twin Cities have stricter state regulations regarding what a comprehensive plan should achieve, but in areas like Worthington, state statute is looser, Falkers said. While land use remains a requirement, Worthington's comprehensive plan will also focus on elements like housing, transportation, economic development, and natural resource management, among others.

Development of the updated plan will rely heavily on community engagement, with many opportunities for feedback aligning with Worthington’s summer celebrations, such as the International Festival. Input from Worthington residents will help define visions and goals for the comprehensive plan going forward and identify areas of growth for the city.

As part of the process, a steering committee is being developed to help guide the overall planning process. The committee will review draft materials and represent the diverse views of Worthington. Currently, 13 members have been appointed, including council members Chad Cummings and Chris Keilblock, who also serves on the planning commission, as well as Erin Schutte Wadzinski , another planning commission member. Other steering committee members include local business and community leaders.

“SRF’s process is rooted in listening to the community,” said Falkers. “Engagement is really a key piece and will guide a lot of our decision-making.”

As part of the community outreach and engagement, Schutte Wadzinski said having informational materials in a variety of languages is necessary to receive input from all of Worthington's diverse communities.

With the changes Worthington has undergone in the last two decades, and the somewhat non-uniformed state of the current comprehensive plan, council members and city staff have noted in the past that this project will be a large — but necessary — undertaking for the city as the current comprehensive plan nears it’s 20th year.

“The current plan needs tennis balls for its walker,” said Cummings. “It’s tired.”


SRF Consulting Group plans to have the project wrapped up next spring with a final draft of the comprehensive plan presented to the city council for adoption.

“We’re really excited to continue the conversation over the next year,” Falkers said.

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Emma McNamee joined The Globe team in October 2021 as a reporter covering Crime & Courts, Politics, and the City beats. Born and raised in Duluth, Minn., McNamee left her hometown to attend school in Chicago at Columbia College. She graduated in 2021 with a degree in Multimedia Journalism, with a concentration in News & Feature Writing and a minor in Creative Writing.
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