Land Use

To maximize returns on the regional investment in sewer, water, roads, parks, and other infrastructure, we need to consider how land will be used. Existing and future uses translate a community’s forecasted growth into where, when, and how much development occurs in the community. It is this effort that enables effective planning for infrastructure. Other considerations include housing needs, employment patterns, recreational space, and commercial activities. The goal is to create livable neighborhoods, easy access to jobs, connected street patterns, and to protect our natural resources.

The information found here will help you develop a land use plan that meets minimum requirements of the Metropolitan Land Planning Act and is consistent with adopted Council plans and policies. We also identify resources that can help you to meet  minimum statutory requirements. This section also includes optional ideas and examples that you may use to supplement your land use plan. 

Land Use Plan

Before starting your land use plan, become familiar with the Council’s population, household, and employment forecasts for your community. You will also need to know your Community Designation so you can better understand how (and which) regional policies affect your community. This information is located on your Community Page.

 Minimum Requirements: 

  • Include a table of forecasted population, households, and employment for 2020, 2030, and 2040, consistent with the Council’s forecasts.

  • Remember, Council forecasts must be used consistently throughout your entire comprehensive plan.

    • Your transportation plan needs to allocate forecasts to transportation analysis zones (TAZs).

    • Your water and wastewater plans need to reflect forecasts to plan for urban services.

    • Your land use plan must reflect and be coordinated with your forecasts.

  • Include a map acknowledging your regional Community Designation(s) and acknowledge the overall density expectations for your Community Designation(s).

  • Each Community Designation identifies both Council and Community Roles in Thrive’s land use policy section. Plans must be consistent with Community Roles for your Community Designation(s) as well as Community Roles that apply to everyone. 

 Get More Out of Your Plan:
  • Many communities use the discussion on forecasts as a jumping off point to discuss socioeconomic conditions (including mix of age, race, and income groups) and analyze changes in their community over time. This gives a good framework early in the plan to better understand your community’s character.

  • Some communities also show historical growth, particularly for population and households to establish a better understanding of the community’s history and character.

 We Can Help!
  • We have pulled together these minimum requirements for you! Your forecast tables, Community Designations map, and Community Roles are located on your Community Page.

  • Thrive policy summaries by Community Designation are available under the Council Policy Tab on your Community Page

  • There are several ways to request changes to your local forecasts. Read How to Request A Local Forecast Change for information on the process that applies to you.

An inventory of current land uses in your community is a great place to kick off the update to your 2040 land use plan. Review your current land uses. Show where existing residential, commercial, industrial, institutional, and mixed uses are sited today. Identify where parks, open space, roadways, and water features are located in your community.Example map of existing land use

 Minimum Requirements:
  • Provide an Existing Land Use Map with a land use legend.

  • Provide an Existing Land Use Table. Calculate total acres and percent of total acres for each land use category.

  • Land uses categories on the map and in the table, as well as any text references must all be consistent with one another.

  • Show existing regional parks, park reserves, and special recreation features with a land use of “Park” (or your equivalent) on your Existing Land Use Map.

 Get More Out of Your Plan:
  • Some communities use the existing land use as a jumping off point to identifying vacant or underutilitized properties that might be available for future development. 

  • Some communities incorporate a natural resource inventory into their existing land use examination.

 We Can Help!
  • We have pulled together these minimum requirements for you! We compile generalized land use information using aerial photos and assessor’s parcel information in standardized land use categories. Feel free to use our latest inventory to meet your Existing Land Use minimum requirement. You can access your generalized land use map and table on your Community Page. For communities that have their own GIS systems, you can map existing land use if you prefer. 

  • In an effort to make land use planning easier, the Council provides standardized land use categories and definitions.

Planning future land uses helps to identify where forecasted growth in population, households, and employment will occur in your community over the next 30 years. Future land uses can also identify where redevelopment opportunities exist, where changes along corridors and within neighborhoods will happen, and where there are opportunities for the preservation of natural resources. 

 Minimum Requirements: 2020-2030-2040 Planning for future
  • The Future Land Use plan must be consistent with the Council’s forecasts of population, households, and employment and identify sufficient land to support your community’s forecasted growth.

  • Provide a Future Land Use Map and land use legend, including density ranges for all land uses that allow residential development.

  • Provide a Future Land Use Table. Calculate total acres and percent of total acres for each land use category for each 10-year planning period (2020, 2030, and 2040).

  • Define each land use category shown on the Future Land Use Map. Land use categories must be used consistently throughout your plan.

  • Land use categories must include types of allowed uses and the minimum and maximum densities (“the allowable density range”) for all categories that allow residential uses. Allowed uses should include a description of allowable housing types such as single family, detached, duplexes, townhomes, etc.

  • For each “mixed use” category, define an expected share of individual land uses and identify the permitted density range for residential uses. For example, Mixed Use Downtown might have an expectation of 30% commercial, 40% office, and 30% residential with a density of 10-15 units per acre.

  • Acknowledge Council-approved master plan boundaries of regional parks, park reserves, and special recreation features by guiding the properties with a land use of “Park” (or your equivalent) on your Future Land Use Map.

 For Communities within the Metropolitan Urban Service Area (MUSA) and Rural Centers
  • Identify employment locations and provide a measurement of intensity of planned employment. Employment locations are typically the areas guided for commercial, office, industrial and institutional uses. Acceptable measurements of intensity include Floor Area Ratio (FAR), building footprint or impervious coverage. Ranges for measuring intensity are acceptable. See the We Can Help Section below.

 For Communities with Special Resources

  • In order for properties to be enrolled in the Agricultural Preserves Program, the Future Land Use Map must reflect an Agricultural land use designation with a maximum density of 1 unit per 40 acres at the time of plan adoption, as required by state law.

  • Identify aggregate resources in your community on the Future Land Use Map.

  • See the Special Resources section within the Land Use Plan Element for requirements for Critical Area Plans, Historic Preservation, and others. 

 For Communities Impacted by an Airport: 
  • Address land uses around the airport. The Land Use Compatibility Guidelines have been prepared to assist communities in preventative and corrective mitigation efforts that focus on compatible land use.

  • Ensure that land uses reflect requirements in the Aviation section of the Transportation Plan Element.  

 Get More Out of Your Plan:
  • Describe the purpose for each of your land use categories. This level of policy development can be helpful when your community is making decisions about zoning ordinances and development proposals. See the City of Rosemount’s 2030 Plan for an example of this format.

  • Use pictures to help visualize expected density ranges. Illustrate what your density ranges (e.g. your neighborhoods) should look like. Try looking through the U of M College of Design’s Digital Content Library for images that might help you.

  • Incorporate neighborhood planning into your Future Land Use Plan. It’s one way to identify specific local issues and break down goals into smaller areas. See Roseville’s 2030 Plan for an example of this idea.

  • The City of White Bear Lake’s 2030 Land Use Plan included a table outlining future land use changes that coincided with a map showing the same changes. These two elements of their land use plan identified redevelopment areas and identified changing densities in a clear and easy to understand format.

  • Include Master Plans, Transit Station Area Plans, or Design Standards in your Land Use Plan to provide clear development expectations.

  • Some communities chose to include the expiration date for those properties currently in the Agricultural Preserves Program and describe anticipated uses after expiration from the Program. See the Special Resources section for specific requirements for properties in the Agricultural Preserves Program.

  • Include Source Water Protection maps in your Land Use Plan to help make decisions about locations for new well sites. Land uses can protect drinking water sources.

  • Understand land use compatibility and implications for human health; land uses are incompatible if they create a nuisance or public health threat, including but not limited to pollutants, noise, dust, odor and safety (Minnesota Healthy Planning: How-To Guide, page 49). For more information, please visit the Minnesota Department of Health Healthy Places website.

 We Can Help!
  • Unsure about how to provide measurements of intensity for employment locations? Find guidance in our resource “How to Identify Employment Locations and Measure Level of Intensity".

  • Some communities are eligible to receive free GIS mapping services to complete their Future Land Use Map and update their Future Land Use Table. To see if your community is eligible, check out the Grants Tab on your Community Page.

  • Planning Assistance Grants are available to some communities that meet eligibility requirements. Check out the Grants Tab on your Community Page to see if your community is eligible.

  • MetroGIS has adopted a Planned Land Use classification system that is based on a consensus of useful land use categories compiled from past comprehensive plans. This classification system is used to create the Regional Planned Land Use dataset. Feel free to use these categories in your individual Future Land Use Map.

  • In an effort to make land use planning easier, the Council provides standardized land use categories and definitions.

  • Your Sector Representative is also available to provide technical assistance.

The intensity of development (density) is how a community accommodates forecasted growth and plans for infrastructure. We review average net density for all residential areas planned for new development or redevelopment across your entire community. This allows flexibility to have a mix of higher and lower density ranges. There are minimum or maximum density level expectations set for each Community Designation.

 Minimum Requirements: Example of density table
  • Identify where forecasted residential growth will happen on your Future Land Use Map. Show expected new development and re-developed areas.

  • Identify what density range is expected for each residential land use in your community.

  • Identify when residential development or redevelopment is anticipated to happen. See the Handbook section on Staged Development and Redevelopment.

  • The average net residential density for your community must be consistent with the density requirements for your community designation.

  • Provide a minimum and maximum value for each residential density range. (Zero is not an acceptable minimum. The maximum value must be a whole number.)

  • Use the lowest allowed residential density from land use ranges in your calculations. For example, a land use that permits a density range of 3-5 units per acre must use 3 units per acre in all density calculations for this land use. This ensures that even at the lowest permitted density, the community will be developing at densities that meet overall density expectations.

  • Focus on areas of change. Show us which planned land uses have changed from your previously approved plan and where new land uses (change or development intensity) is planned/expected.

  • Provide the net developable acreage for each residential land use. It’s OK to exclude wetlands and natural water bodies, public parks and open space, arterial road rights-of-way, and natural resource lands protected by local plans and ordinances (i.e. steep slopes, wetland buffers, tree preservation) from area calculations. Stormwater ponds, utility easements, local roads, and local rights-of-way cannot be excluded from area calculations.

  • The information you develop in your land use plan carries over to other elements of your comprehensive plan. The areas and densities in the land use plan must be consistent across elements related to forecasted growth, wastewater, water, housing, and transportation.

 For Communities with Existing or Planned Transitways or High Frequency Bus Corridors

  • Minimum average net densities near transitway stations and high frequency bus corridors must meet the standards in the 2040 Transportation Policy Plan (TPP). Refer to the Transportation Plan Element.

 For Communities with an Affordable Housing Allocation:
  • Guide residential land at densities sufficient to create opportunities for affordable housing using one of the following options outlined in the Housing Plan Element. Refer to the Projected Housing Need section. 

 For Diversified Rural Communities with Flexible Development Ordinances: 
  • You must be consistent with the Flexible Development Guidelines adopted in August 2008. These guidelines apply to Diversified Rural communities with staging areas for future urbanization identified as Long Term Service Areas for regional wastewater services. You should review these guidelines if you have local ordinances that allow densities greater than 1 unit per 10 acres (open space ordinances, cluster developments, density bonuses etc.).

 Get More Out of Your Plan:
  • We track residential density and housing through plan amendments to ensure requirements continue to be met. Using our density analysis format could help you understand how your community can continue to meet minimum standards and better understand the information reviewed when you submit an amendment. 

 We Can Help!
  • We’ve put together a simple demonstration for you to explain the net residential density form. Check out our example on how to calculate net density.

Identifying where a community will support forecasted growth is necessary to ensure that the timing of growth lines up with land use plans and supports planned infrastructure investments. Staging plans are especially important to sewer and local water supply plans in still developing communities, communities with orderly annexation agreements, and communities that have areas of potential MUSA expansion. Most developed areas will accommodate projected growth through redevelopment planning. 

 Minimum Requirements: 
  • Identify potential local infrastructure impacts for each 10-year increment.

  • Demonstrate that the municipality is capable of providing services and facilities that accommodate its planned growth.

  • The staging plan or likely development phasing must be consistent with the volume of anticipated sewer flow identified in your community’s Local Sewer Plan.

  • The staging plan or likely development phasing must support and be consistent with your community’s share of the Region’s Need for Affordable Housing for 2021 - 2030.

 For Suburban Edge, Emerging Suburban Edge, Rural Centers, and Communities with Orderly Annexation Agreements (OAAs): 

  • Map stages of development in 10-year increments (existing, 2020, 2030, and 2040).

  • Provide a table of staged development in 10-year increments. The table must include future land uses, area in acres, density ranges, and total residential units by each 10-year time increment. 

 For Urban Center, Urban, and Suburban Communities: 
  • Identify and map the land areas that are available or likely to be available for redevelopment, infill development, or new development in your community.

  • Provide a table of those areas identified that includes future land uses, acreages, density ranges, and total residential units in 10-year increments. Use your professional judgment for estimating the timing of development for areas that are uncertain or do not have plans in process.

 Get More Out of Your Plan:
  • ULI MN has developed a Redevelopment Ready Guide for local governments that helps communities establish redevelopment policies and practices. This document provides a checklist of eight best practices that help communities support redevelopment efforts.

  • Include information about water supply system planning from the local water supply plan, and maintain as a high priority the securing of the water sector’s critical infrastructure and key resources (CIKR).

 We Can Help!
  • We’ve provided some Plan Examples of staging approaches from the 2030 comprehensive plans that might be helpful as you prepare this portion of your plan.

Natural resources - including lakes, rivers, wetlands, prairie, and woodlands - contribute to the livability and sustainability of our region. These natural areas recharge our aquifers, provide plant and animal habitat, and reduce air pollution. Stewardship of natural resources and balancing development with conservation should be an important consideration in your comprehensive plan.

 Minimum Requirements
  • Describe your community’s goals, intentions, and priorities concerning preservation, conservation, or restoration of natural resources in your community.

 Get More Out of Your Plan:
  • Prepare a local natural resource inventory that incorporates free-standing local natural resource areas as well as those that connect with larger corridors.

  • Include goals, priorities, and natural resource conservation strategies to protect and enhance natural resources in your comprehensive plan.

  • Adopt and implement ordinances for the conservation and restoration of natural resources within your community.

  • Collaborate with adjacent communities and other partners to identify, plan for, and protect natural resource areas that cross boundaries.

  • Establish and maintain conservation areas for plant and animal habitat management. 

 We Can Help!
  • Download GIS data on a variety of Natural Resource topics from different agencies.

Special Resources are identified as required plan elements in statute and include solar access, historic preservation, critical area, agricultural preserves, and aggregate resources. 

 Minimum Requirements:
  • All plans must include a protection element for historic sites.

  • All plans must include policies for the protection and development of access to direct sunlight for solar energy. Solar access is addressed in depth under the Resilience section. 

  • ‚ÄčAll plans must identify whether or not aggregate resources are available within the community. For communities with aggregate resources, additional requirements apply.

Map of Agricultural Preserves 2013
 For Communities with Agricultural Preserves:
  • In order for properties to be enrolled in the Agricultural Preserves Program, the Future Land Use Map must reflect an Agricultural land use designation with a maximum density of 1 unit per 40 acres, as required by state law.

 For Communities with Aggregate Resources:
  • Identify aggregate resources in your community on the Future Land Use Map using the Aggregate Resources Inventory.

  • You must address and minimize potential land use conflicts.

  • Identify planning and regulatory measures to ensure that aggregate resources are extracted prior to urbanization of aggregate-rich sites.

 For Communities in the Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area:
 Get More Out of Your Plan:
  • A protection element for historic sites is required in all comprehensive plans, but the other special resources vary. Refer to your Checklist to see if requirements apply to your community. Your checklist can be found on your Community Page.

  • The City of Stillwater’s Historic Resources Chapter of their 2030 Comprehensive Plan is a great example of how to set goals and objectives, establish policies and programs, acknowledge preservation efforts, identify design guidelines, establish special districts, and inventory resources. The City has several programs, ordinances, and guidelines that work to implement preservation plans. 

 We Can Help!
  • Agricultural Preserves annual data is available for GIS users. Access this data by using our new interactive mapping tool or downloading the data from our website.

  • We have compiled an Aggregate Resources data set for GIS users that reflects existing unrestricted Aggregate Resources. Access this data by using our new interactive mapping tool or downloading the data from our website.

  • The Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office website has many helpful tools, preservation plans, programs, and resource inventories that may help you identify and plan for preservation of historic resources in your community.

  • The Department of Natural Resources has information and resources available related to Mississippi River Critical Area Program on their website.

Land Use Resources

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