St. Cloud, MN Environmentally Sensitive Areas

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Type: Ordinance

Status: Adopted

Source File:


As this is a long document separated into 8 separate pdf files, only the first four articles are shown below. To view or print the entire ordinance, please use the links supplied by the source file.



This Ordinance as amended from time to time shall be known as the "Environmentally Sensitive Areas Ordinance" of the City of St. Cloud, Minnesota, and shall be known, cited and referred to herein as "this Ordinance."


1.1 The intent of this Ordinance is to pursue two equal goals:

1.1-1 To provide and encourage measures of protection to those properties identified as Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA).
1.1-2 To provide for equitable economic return in consideration of protection and preservation of ESA.

2.1 This Ordinance creates a process through which the City can comply with the Comprehensive Plan's pledge to support orderly growth and development while protecting environmentally sensitive resources within the City of St. Cloud. The goals of the Comprehensive Plan furthered by this Ordinance include the need to:

2.1-1 "Protect, conserve, and enhance natural resources within and adjacent to the St. Cloud area for the community's long-term environmental and economic benefit."
2.1-2 "Support the orderly growth of residential, commercial and industrial areas in accordance with reasonable market projections."
2.1-3 "Identify sensitive environmental areas and prioritize their inclusion in a regional open space system."
2.1-4 "Create and sustain a favorable climate for economic development in the City."

3.1 This Ordinance requires that all future development occurring in areas identified as environmentally sensitive be guided by a concern to protect, conserve and enhance those resources. To accomplish this goal, this Ordinance creates a process to aid, support and promote development that achieves these environmental goals. This process will:

3.1-1 Identify and prioritize environmentally sensitive areas;
3.1-2 Aid developers in the creation of their development plans;
3.1-3 Aid City staff, the Planning Commission and City Council in their assessment of development plans in environmentally sensitive areas;
3.1-4 Provide flexibility in the planning process when needed to balance environmental and economic goals.

4.1 Rationale for Protecting Environmentally Sensitive Areas: Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA's) are areas that contain native vegetation and natural features and/or natural resources that contribute to the health, welfare and quality of life of the people of St. Cloud. The City of St. Cloud has a right and the responsibility to protect and conserve these areas for a variety of reasons, including:

4.1-1 Some areas contribute to community health (e.g., wetlands that function to filter and purify water);
4.1-2 Some areas are valued for historical and symbolic reasons (e.g., the few remaining examples of pre-settlement prairie or granite outcrops that symbolize St. Cloud's heritage);
4.1-3 Some areas contribute to community safety (wetlands and riparian corridors contribute to flood control):
4.1-4 Some areas are valued as habitat for wildlife and/or natural communities (some of which include rare native plant or animal species);
4.1-5 Some areas are valued for recreational (hiking, skiing, walking) purposes;
4.1-6 Some areas are valued on the grounds of aesthetics and quality of life (as open areas and woodlands provide solitude and quiet amidst the noise and crowds of modern life);
4.1-7 Some areas function as educational resources for scientific research and teaching (especially by providing our children with convenient and local access to learn about their natural surroundings and their history).


The Council for the City of St. Cloud finds that:

  • Natural areas, such as native prairies, forests and woodlands, rare species habitat, sensitive geological and hydrological features, wetlands, riparian (river and stream) and wildlife corridors, and other unique and sensitive natural features within the City are parts of the natural ecosystem (see Appendix A - Description of Environmentally Sensitive Resources and Rationale for Protection).
  • This natural ecosystem and its interconnected network should be protected in the development of the City for the present and future health, safety and general welfare of the people within the City.
  • The St. Cloud Environmentally Sensitive Areas Ordinance identifies and prioritizes these environmentally sensitive natural areas.
  • The continued strength of our community, our economic security and the health of our natural environment are interdependent. Sustainable development maintains or enhances economic opportunity. Therefore, our community's well being and quality of life is enhanced by protecting, conserving and enhancing environmentally sensitive areas.
  • This Ordinance also furthers the goals of the following:
City of St. Cloud 1993 Comprehensive Plan
City of St. Cloud Home Rule Charter
Community Based Planning Act of 1997 (CBPA) Minnesota Statutes 4A.08, particularly the goals of economic development, conservation, land-use planning and sustainable development.


Environmentally Sensitive Areas are identified to:

1.1 Protect, conserve and enhance the City's natural resources including the City's inventoried and identified native prairies, forests, woodlands, sensitive geological and hydrological features, wetlands, riparian (river and stream) corridors, wildlife corridors and other sensitive natural features.

1.2 Develop a priority system for guiding protection of environmentally sensitive areas.

1.3 Promote open space, including an interconnected system of trails for people and corridors for wildlife where appropriate and feasible.

1.4 Provide for the orderly growth and development of the City including commercial, industrial and residential areas.

1.5 Promote flexible site planning.

1.6 Allow for a mix of housing types.

1.7 Promote protection of steep slopes and sensitive soils.

1.8 Encourage coordination between city, county, state and federal agencies concerned with natural resources.

1.9 Encourage cooperation through joint planning and development with neighboring communities to protect, preserve, and enhance our shared natural environment.

1.10 Encourage early cooperative planning between landowners/developers, the City and individuals with scientific expertise in natural communities and resources.

Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA's) are areas that contain native vegetation and natural features and/or natural resources. ESA's contain natural communities, i.e., naturally-occurring associations of plants and animals whose existence and extent are determined by factors such as soil composition, hydrology, climate, solar conditions and a site's unique history. Natural communities are named for the dominant plant species within them or for characteristic environmental features. Examples are oak forest and wet meadow. ESA's may also contain rare species or protect natural resources of concern. ESA's are sensitive in that further fragmentation, disturbance and development will adversely affect and may destroy the natural processes operating within them, as well as the composition, structure and function of the natural communities they contain.

Properties designated as environmentally sensitive have one or more of the following characteristics:

3.1 Contains much native biodiversity and few exotics.

3.2 Is of adequate size and cohesiveness to be biologically sustainable.

3.3 Is a remaining example of a pre-permanent settlement natural community for Minnesota.

3.4 Is considered significant because it is rare in the St. Cloud area.

3.5 Contains or is adjacent to a rare species site, and is critical in preserving the rare plant species or in conserving the rare animal species present. (See MN Statute 84.0895, Protection of Threatened and Endangered Species.)

3.6 Contains sensitive geological and hydrological features.

3.7 Contains or is adjacent to a wetland, river or stream and is critical in maintaining water quality, rare species habitat, or flood control.

3.8 Contributes significantly to biological or hydro-geological functions such as wildlife habitat, air purification, and erosion control.

These criteria, when ecologically significant, are used in designating new properties as environmentally sensitive areas through the amendment process. (See Article 7, Section 4.)

Areas designated as environmentally sensitive are prioritized for planning purposes. Prioritization is based on the presence of one or more of the following characteristics:

4.1 Quality of the area as determined by the degree of human disturbance on the ecosystem (the less the disturbance, the higher the quality).

4.2 Local and/or state rarity.

4.3 Biodiversity of native species.

4.4 Interconnectedness: corridors and complexes that form interconnected and contiguous areas and which allow for movement of species from one Environmentally Sensitive Area to another.

4.5 Part of a riparian (river and stream) corridor; part of a wildlife corridor.

4.6 Size: each type of Environmentally Sensitive Area has its own size requirements that contribute to continued viability for that natural community.

4.7 Provides an environmental service: purification system for drinking water and surface waters; a groundwater recharge area; an air purification system that fosters human health; a low cost stormwater management and flood control system; noise abatement, natural wind and snow break, etc.

4.8 Ecological sensitivity, i.e. the ability of the natural community to tolerate development and/or recover from human disturbance.


5.1 Preliminary determination of the location of an ESA will be made by the Planning Office and Engineering Department using the maps as denoted in Sections 5.1-1 and 5.1-2 below. ESA's as denoted on the maps in Sections 5.1-1 and 5.1-2 below and their impact zones shall be the only properties regulated by this Ordinance; except that the land area regulated also applies to any land area that is added, and does not apply to a land area deleted, as an ESA under the land area amendment process as outlined in Article 7, Section 4.

5.1-1 St. Cloud Natural Areas Inventory and Planning Framework (1996) and 2001 Addendum (including the St. Cloud Natural Areas and Rare Species Sites map and 2001 Addendum maps).
5.1-2 Minnesota County Biological Survey Map entitled Natural Communities and Rare Species, St. Cloud Metropolitan Area (1997).

5.2 The City and the Environment and Development Team may use other pertinent reference maps, reports and documents, etc. in dealing with property that contains an ESA (see Appendix F for examples of other resources the City may use). The use of other resources is only for reference and does not create new ESA's. The process for amending the designation of land as an ESA is described in Article 7, Section 4.

5.3 Final determination of the specific boundaries of an ESA will be made by qualified scientists through the Site Planning Process (see Article 6, Section 3).