- By Guest Author
- January 24, 2007
REGIONAL, STATE & LOCAL PLANNING
State ofAffairs : Thomas Edison once said, “Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.” Here in northeastern Illinois, opportunity is at our door: projections forecast that Chicagoland will expand by nearly two million people (or 25 percent) by 2030. Our future, and our fortune, depends on whether or not we plan ahead for new growth as a region.
For many years northeastern Illinois municipalities were left to vie for “their share” of regional growth. While a certain amount of competition among municipalities is healthy, it became clear in the early 1990s that we were racing our neighbors to the bottom as we allowed our region to fragment and decay. Sure, for some, the town forefathers got it right; they planned street designs and charming downtowns that have withstood the test of time and today provide attractive places for residents to live, work and play. However, far too many other communities find themselves rectifying mistakes made long ago, struggling to respond to new growth and development challenges, or working to reinvigorate fading downtowns and weak retail or industrial corridors.
Until recently, towns had no choice but to deal with these dilemmas alone, or with the help of groups dedicated to improving regional planning, like MPC. Yet these groups (all with limited funding) can never meet the large and growing demand for local technical assistance. As development continues apace, the case for strong regional and state planning intensifies.
Solutions: The call for more coordinated regional planning in northeastern Illinois was answered in 2005, when the Illinois General Assembly created the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), the region’s first combined transportation and land use planning agency. By 2008, the agency must develop a vision to guide regional growth. To do so, CMAP will need dedicated funding, which is expected to be addressed during this legislative session. In exchange for this funding, MPC and other sensible growth advocates urge CMAP to be held accountable by a set of indicators to measure the region’s progress toward sustainable development.
Better coordination also is needed at the state level. At MPC’s 2006 Annual Meeting Luncheon, Gov. Rod Blagojevich acknowledged that “the state government and local governments need to a better job coordinating” planning efforts. He expressed a desire to better link the work of state agencies dealing with various aspects of planning under the auspices of one agency, perhaps understanding how dicey development battles have swayed elections in other states like Virginia, and at the county and local levels in our own region. He urged MPC to “put those policy papers aside” and advocate for better state planning coordination in Springfield – which we will do this session.
MPC also will push for a new revenue stream to provide state funding to local communities for technical assistance. Planning is the precursor to economic development. Towns across the state have demonstrated that in order to attract new industries, create jobs, and build the tax base, planning is a necessity. Unfortunately, not all towns have the resources to jumpstart this economic improvement process. Utilizing just 1 percent of the gross revenues from the Hotel Operator’s Tax (currently diverted to General Funds)would allow Illinois communities to access planning grants and begin the process of revitalization. MPC supports this effort, currently known as 1 Percent for Planning, and believes CMAP should administer the grant program in northeastern Illinois.
While sensible growth needs the support of public policy, the market needs incentives to use sensible growth approaches. That’s why the Campaign for Sensible Growth has developed Green Houses Green Neighborhoods to expand incentives for development projects that are consistent with LEED– Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) standards of the U.S. Green Buildings Council (USGBC), Congress for the New Urbanism, and Natural Resources Defense Council. The expectation is for LEED–ND to provide a marketing advantage for participating projects, thereby increasing property values and encouraging developers, owners and investors to support the LEED–ND designation. The Campaign for Sensible Growth (of which MPC is a lead member) is urging the State of Illinois to offer incentives to LEED–ND-certified projects. Illinois could be positioned as a national leader in its support of energy conservation, best practices in stormwater management, and encouraging developments that improve transportation efficiency and provide access to transit—all achieved through LEED–ND designation.
Key Legislative Priorities:
Implement an effective and accountable Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning
Develop state planning leadership and coordination
Path to Prosperity: 1 Percent for Planning
Sen. Pamela J. Althoff ( R-Crystal Lake ), sponsor
Green Houses, Green Neighborhoods