Special Series, Part 5: Make or Break - Year One of the Regional Planning Board - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Special Series, Part 5: Make or Break - Year One of the Regional Planning Board

The fifth in the series: The board delves into the thorny details of its future.

For years, neighboring communities have had to compete with each other to attract the most tax dollars, often at the expense of local quality of life, economic development, school excellence, personal and social health, and basic needs like water and sewage. While some competition among municipalities is healthy, it’s become increasingly clear that any local victories are fleeting; we’re racing our neighbors to the bottom as long as we allow our region to fragment and decay. Thankfully, Chicagoland has an historic opportunity to unite and regain our competitive edge through the development of a strong Regional Planning Board. The state legislature has given the board just one year to develop a plan for success. This series, “Make or Break – Year One of the Regional Planning Board” analyzes the issues the board must tackle in the months ahead.

The Ingredients of an Effective Regional Planning Board

The Regional Planning Board is now approaching the six-month mark of its work. For much of that time, the board has been busy forming committees, creating committee work plans, and hiring an executive director. With these foundational structures in place, the organization will now be able to create the full menu of ingredients it needs to entice local municipalities and public agencies to participate in regional planning.

By making the most use of NIPC’s existing land use and natural resources planning capabilities and CATS’ transportation modeling, the board can ensure that the region gets the most value out of its infrastructure investments. But simply merging two organizations will not produce a new entity that makes coordinated regional planning and capital investment a reality. The Regional Planning Board must be able to prioritize investments and offer new, meaningful incentives for regional cooperation of capital planning, while preserving the authority of local municipalities and public agencies. Specifically, the board will need to be able to answer the following questions.

Scope and Incentives

One of the many reasons that municipalities have increasingly supported the integration of transportation and land use planning through the creation of the Regional Planning Board is that the number of subjects they must address regionally has expanded. As the metropolitan region continues to develop, land use patterns and population trends are keeping local mayors and managers searching for answers to increasingly complex growth management needs.

  • What subject areas will demand regional cooperation?
  • What incentives can the Regional Planning Board offer to public agencies, developers and municipalities to make coordinated regional planning and capital investment a reality?


Delivering incentives, particularly planning expertise, requires the region to make an investment in the Regional Planning Board commensurate to what it takes to achieve our vision of a prosperous, inviting place to live and do business.

  • What financial resources are already available to CATS and NIPC?
  • What other financial sources are available to the Regional Planning Board?

Technical Assistance

One incentive to local municipality cooperation is for the Regional Planning Board to incorporate and expand technical service to local municipalities now provided by NIPC. Many northeastern Illinois municipalities, especially those located in fast growing areas or in areas in need of revitalization, have little guidance and few resources when it comes to dealing with issues that cross municipal boundaries, such as water quality, traffic congestion, or large scale economic development projects.

  • What sorts of technical assistance could the Regional Planning Board offer municipalities?


The Regional Planning Board should be both an effective body and an accountable body that continually seeks cooperation and trust from local stakeholders.

  • Against what criteria should the Regional Planning Board be judged?
  • To whom should the Regional Planning Board be accountable?


While the Regional Planning Board currently covers seven counties, the issues it must address often impact a larger region. The Board requires the ability to balance the need to work with these surrounding communities with its vision of concentrating on development within the existing geographic jurisdiction of the Board.

  • How can the Regional Planning Board work with surrounding municipalities under the current legislation?
  • How would the Regional Planning Board expand its jurisdiction?

These are complex questions that require substantial research and discussion. MPC looks forward to assisting the board in its research and deliberation. We encourage others to get involved and attend the meetings. See www.rpbchicago.org for the board’s schedule and other information.

Click here to read the Regional Planning Board's Action Plan for 2006 .

Click here for the full "Make or Break - Year One of the Regional Planning Board" series .

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