There are many different ways to look at the Downtown Master Plan that’s generating a lot of discussion among the decision-makers in Crookston, and no matter how you look at it, the view is a little muddy.

    That’s not a criticism, necessarily. In fact, it’s probably not. In fact, the thinking here is that city council members shouldn’t be so hesitant to “adopt” it – a word council member Bob Quanrud would like to avoid; he’d prefer the council simply acknowledge “receiving” the plan. Approve it, even in its present form, and the sky will not fall. People will not run through the streets with flaming torches wondering why the City’s leaders sold their soul to JLG Architects and other eternal optimists who insist downtown Crookston is the most important piece of real estate in the Upper Midwest.

    But, still, what’s the deal with this plan?

    On one hand, we’re told, potential outside funders of downtown Crookston initiatives, before making any funding decisions, will quite possibly require that the City produce an adopted master plan for downtown Crookston. No plan? Then no grants. At least that’s the implication being made.

    But if that’s 100 percent the case, why didn’t we have a Downtown Master Plan a long time ago? It’s not like efforts to boost downtown Crookston didn’t exist before the Downtown Crookston Development Partnership came along.

    What happened was the Crookston Chamber and some other downtown proponents – and, seriously, good for them – sought and received a $20,000 grant from the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency to make the Downtown Master Plan a reality. Certainly, most of that money went to JLG Architects, who drafted the plan after collecting input from Crookston residents and various stakeholders.

    But is this so important that, had no grant been awarded, the city council would have paid for the creation of a Downtown Master Plan? Maybe. We’re not talking about a ton of money, after all. But, still, City leaders not too long ago completed an exhaustive process that resulted in “Crookston Tomorrow,” an update of Crookston’s almost 30-year-old comprehensive plan that tries to envision the community’s future all the way to 2035. There’s a fair amount of downtown-specific content in that massive plan. Shouldn’t that plan be a major reference point when decisions that affect downtown’s future are being debated?

    Also, there’s no denying the fact that the Downtown Master Plan in its current form doesn’t mesh with significant things city council members and the City’s administration are doing now, and have been working on over the past few years. There are major things in that plan in its current form that don’t fit with major things the City has been looking to do downtown, and continues to look to do.

    But on the other hand, can we stop expressing this supposed fear that if the Downtown Master Plan is “adopted” or otherwise approved or accepted, the City will be somehow committed to millions of dollars in investments in its downtown? This plan is a concept, more than anything an intriguing wish list of cool things that would dramatically alter this community’s downtown sector. Give architects some money, and they love coming up with things like this.

    And what is “this?” A document that’s paid for, completed, interesting but with nothing set in stone, and not deserving of the city council gutting it before they’re comfortable enough to vote in the affirmative.