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Posted on: September 29, 2021

Learn About MRCCA Updates

Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area - Open House Oct. 13

The City will host a Zoom Webinar to detail new zoning rules for property along the Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area (MRCCA). Pre-registration is required.

MRCCA Virtual Open House
Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021 via Zoom

View a recording of the Virtual Open House.

Back in 2017, the Minnesota State Legislature updated zoning regulations for the MRCCA, which runs through the Twin Cities. Those rules must now be adopted by local cities including Coon Rapids.

"Minnesota is the headwaters of the Mississippi River, they feel it’s very important for us to preserve the quality of this water and they do that through controlling the construction that goes along and any work that goes along the shorelines and the bluff lines along the river," Mayor Jerry Koch said.

The Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area, which was designated as such back in 1976, stretches for 72 miles from the cities of Ramsey and Dayton down to Hastings and Ravenna Township. It includes 54,000 acres of land along both sides of the river.

"Most of these rules relate to those property owners who live along the river or who own property along the river," said Grant Fernelius, Community Development Director. "Most of it is private residential homes but there are some public institutions including Anoka-Ramsey Community College that are also subject to these rules."

The three big changes include:

  1.  New design standards for acceptable river access including paths, stairways, water-oriented structures, patios and decks.
  2.  Specific definitions have been developed for things like bluff line and bluff impact zone.
  3.  Permits are now required for certain land alterations and vegetation removal.

"Previously we didn’t really have a permitting requirement if someone was going to do some fairly significant work along the river, whether that’s vegetation removal, putting in rip rap or a retaining wall, we didn’t really have a process for doing that," Fernelius said.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has created a model ordinance to help guide cities as they update their own ordinances to align with the new regulations.

"Anything that was legally established prior to the updated ordinance will be considered a legal non-conformity if it doesn’t meet the new standards, so there are protections under state law for legal non-conformities," Fernelius said.

This winter, the Coon Rapids Planning Commission will hold a public hearing for comments on the updated rules. Then it's on to the City Council for approval in the spring.

Mayor Koch said the Council will align the City ordinance with the updated state standards. "We need to adopt them and make them part of the City ordinances because we will be responsible for the permitting and for the enforcement."

"A lot of the changes are really related to permitting, and clarification about rules," Fernelius said. "Things like structure setbacks are not changing, so I think it’s important for people to understand that this is really updating and modernizing our ordinance, but I don’t know that there are drastic changes that we are making to it."

The changes are designed to protect the 72-mile corridor for generations to come.

"I encourage folks to get involved if they are interested in this, participate in the open houses, participate in the public hearing and just make sure that it’s doing what we need it to do," Koch said.

If you'd like to learn more about the changes, join the virtual webinar on Wednesday, October 13 at 6:30 p.m. Pre-registration is required. For more information or to register, click here.

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