Like most people, Shakopee residents apparently want it all.
At a community workshop aimed at soliciting feedback for Shakopee’s 2040 comprehensive plan, residents clamored for more independent restaurants, more transit options and more affordable housing.
But they also expressed fear that accommodating a population that has doubled since 2000 will inevitably mean losing their cherished “small town feel.”
“There’s a desire to not become ‘cookie cutter,’ ” said senior planner Eric Weiss, highlighting the special appeal of downtown. “People really like that it’s a historic, unique place that not all suburbs have.”
The comprehensive plan, dubbed “Envision Shakopee,” outlines how amenities from housing to parks to transportation should develop over the next two decades. The Metropolitan Council projects that Shakopee’s population will increase 29 percent and employment will grow by 43 percent by 2040.
In recent years, a manufacturing boom has attracted major employers like Amazon, Shutterfly and MyPillow. The blue-collar factory work has helped diversify the town, where nearly 30 percent of residents are now members of minorities.
At a time when a polarized City Council is often at odds over economic development, leaders say the comprehensive plan will allow residents to cast their own votes for how Shakopee should develop. City staff flipped the planning pro cess to solicit community input early so they could craft a long-term vision around the feedback they get.
“People want to see the city build up its reputation,” Weiss said. “Ultimately, we all want to see Shakopee be successful.”
About 60 people attended the city’s first of four major workshop events Thursday night to hear a presentation outlining current demographic data and growth projections. Longtime resident Deb Krause cited both proximity to the metro area and a “hometown atmosphere” when challenged to define Shakopee.
“We’re positioned so nicely on the border of a river, rail and the freeway,” Krause said. “In a half-hour, you can be at the Guthrie Theater. Or in a few minutes, you can get to more rural country.”
At breakout stations, residents examined large graphics mapping major traffic routes, bike trails and housing density to determine what could improve. So far, responses from focus groups and a series of community talks have placed an emphasis on affordable housing.
Though two-thirds of Shakopee’s 40,000 residents are already homeowners, officials said, just over a third can’t find affordable housing — defined as costing less than 30 percent of their income. Some fear that rising rents and a lack of new apartments will price people out of their neighborhoods.
“What developers say is affordable isn’t necessarily affordable to people here,” said Tracy Shantz, who moved from Fargo five years ago for her husband’s new job. Shantz bought a Shakopee townhouse and now worries that the family would have to move outside city limits to upgrade to an economical single-family home. She also wants more educational opportunities, like Spanish immersion schools for her two young children.
“Prior Lake has plenty, and it’s not that far away,” Shantz said.
City planners will continue gathering suggestions through next year. The finalized comprehensive plan is due to the Met Council by the end of 2018, then moves to the City Council for approval.
Those unable to attend Thursday’s meeting can view the presentation online at envisionshakopee.com and complete a community survey. Do-it-yourself planning kits also are available for local business leaders to conduct their own meetings to discuss the city’s strengths, challenges and aspirations.
City staff members say they might hold annual reviews of the comprehensive plan to keep action items “top of mind.”
“Every 10 years is probably not enough,” said Weiss, the senior planner. The last time the city held public discussions about the plan, Apple was releasing its first iPhone, he said. “Think about how much our world has changed since then.”