Sensible growth policies inched forward in Spring Session - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Sensible growth policies inched forward in Spring Session

An analysis of 2001 sensible growth legislation.

The 2001 Legislative Session was one of great hopes for advocates of sensible growth.  There seemed to be consensus — from local governments to environmentalists, and from developers to builders — over a number of practical pieces of legislation.  Among them the Metropolitan Planning Council pushed for HB 504: Live Near Work; HB 505: Local Planning Technical Assistance Act; HB 2358: Local Legacy, for preservation of natural and cultural resources; and HB 604: Facility Planning Areas reform. 

The ideas behind each of these bills came out of working group reports to the Illinois Growth Task Force at the end of 2000 and passed the Illinois House overwhelmingly.  Winning over the Senate proved more difficult.  HB 505 and 604 made it out of the Rules and Executive committees, but were never put to vote on the Senate Floor. 

Longtime Springfield watchers note that the issue is still new to most legislators.   While mayors and county board members regularly run on local growth and economic development issues, state legislators have traditionally stayed out of the fray.  Some even assert that the state has little role in land use decisions, ignoring the cumulative impact on growth patterns through actions by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Natural Resources, among others.  In fact, the Department of Commerce and Community Affairs (DCCA) has the explicit charge of supporting local community development and planning efforts.  As the Campaign for Sensible Growth often points out, there is no shortage of enabling laws that allow Illinois to be a leader on growth and development issues.

As a result of advocacy efforts, Gov. George Ryan and many state agencies are implementing programs inspired by legislative proposals coming out of Growth Task Force and gubernatorial campaign promises.  Packaged as “Illinois Tomorrow:  Balanced Growth for a Better Quality of Life,”  commitments have included $3 million a year over five years for IDOT’s Balanced Growth Corridor Planning; $750,000 in 2001 and $1 million in 2002 for DCCA’s Balanced Growth Capacity Building Program for local communities; and $2 million for Green Illinois. 

In addition, the Metropolitan Planning Council was successful in securing $268,000 from the Illinois Housing Development Authority’s Housing Trust Fund to be used as matching funds for employers’ contributions for employer-assisted housing.  The funds can be used for down payment assistance, closing costs or mortgage write-downs to help workers live closer to their jobs.

What’s next?  The Illinois Growth Task Force will reconvene this summer.  The Campaign for Sensible Growth and its many partners will work again to develop a unified legislative agenda going into the Veto Session this fall, and the 2002 Spring Session. 

The issues are clearly not going away.  A gubernatorial election is just around the bend, the population in Illinois is growing rapidly, and conflicts between goals of open space conservation and the development of affordable housing for a growing workforce continue to escalate.  Watch for the state legislature to take notice when citizens partner with their mayor and county elected officials to urge the state to provide useful tools to help local communities achieve balanced growth and development.

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