County Officials, State Leaders, Planners Focus on “Fueling the Future” at Third Annual Partners in Planning Conference - Metropolitan Planning Council

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County Officials, State Leaders, Planners Focus on “Fueling the Future” at Third Annual Partners in Planning Conference

(PEORIA)…..From Chicago’s “exurbs” to the rural towns and farm communities paving the road to Springfield, from the suburbs of Peoria to East St. Louis, county board members, elected officials and regional planners are working at every level to address the issues that will define their communities in coming decades. At the Third Annual Partners in Planning Conference in Peoria, Ill., taking place Thursday, Nov. 3 and Friday, Nov. 4, 2005, decision-makers and experts will learn how current events are shaping statewide development and share best practices, “Fueling the Future” for sensible growth in Illinois.

“The Partners in Planning Conference is the most intensive learning opportunity in the state dedicated to county land use, planning, and economic development issues,” said Frank X. Heiligenstein, president of the Illinois Association of County Board Members, an event co-sponsor. “Peoria will be a wonderful place to regroup and generate ideas for our future.”

Sessions will focus on a range of factors affecting community development, from recent legal and legislative decisions (including Congress’ reauthorization of the federal surface transportation bill and the Supreme Court’s eminent domain ruling) to natural resources, such as wind power and water supplies. Local leaders and county board members will learn what it takes to start a sustainable parks and recreation program, how to use statistical data to inform their planning decisions, and why some communities have begun studies of their groundwater supplies.

“Local and regional planning and development officials alike should find the annual conference to be one of the more informative and productive trips they invest in this year,” said Fred Walker, executive director of a five-county regional planning and development agency serving the South Central Illinois area and president of the Illinois Association of Regional Councils, an event co-sponsor. “I strongly encourage county leaders and community planners to participate.”

Most of the more than 200 expected attendees will come from regions throughout the state, primarily outside of northeastern Illinois , indicating that pressure to manage growth is spreading as rapidly as development. Several Illinois state agencies will attend the conference, reinforcing the important role of planning in guiding new growth and investments to support a healthy statewide economy.

“Communities across Illinois share many of the same needs, among them good schools, a range of housing and transportation options, and access to natural areas,” said MarySue Barrett, president of the Metropolitan Planning Council and co-chair of the Campaign for Sensible Growth, an event co-sponsor. “Both state and local leaders can ensure we make the most of our limited resources and keep Illinois competitive by sharing innovative best practices in land use planning.”

The conference is co-sponsored by the Campaign for Sensible Growth, Illinois Association of County Board Members and Commissioners, Illinois Association of County Zoning Officials, and the Illinois Association of Regional Councils in conjunction with the Illinois Association of Resource Conservation and Development Areas. It will be held at the Holiday Inn City Centre, 500 Hamilton Blvd., Peoria, Ill. The conference kicks off with a reception on the evening of Thursday, Nov. 3, followed by a full day of speakers and seminars on Friday, Nov. 4, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“County regional planning and zoning is a complex and ever-changing field,” said Mike Reibel, Ogle County Zoning Administrator and president of the Illinois Association of County Zoning Officials, an event co-sponsor. “This conference will help county leaders and staff stay informed and on the leading edge of information that is vital to serving their jurisdictions.”

Confirmed to speak are leaders concerned about growth and investment. They include Fred Abousleman, transportation director for the National Association of Regional Councils, presenting on provisions of SAFETEA-LU, the new federal transportation bill. Scott Goldstein, vice president of policy and planning from the Metropolitan Planning Council and James Meuller, associate at Holland and Knight, will discuss the implications of the Supreme Court’s eminent domain case Kelo v. New London . A moderated panel of Opportunity Returns region managers and representatives including Todd Lee, East Central Region, Steven Bois, Northern Stateline Region, John Whalen, North Central Region, and John Gulley, Southern Region, will discuss accomplishments of the region economies and plans for the future.

Other sessions include:

  • “The Tax Value of Windfarms” Windfarms are sprouting up across Illinois as a source of clean, reliable energy, and a source of revenue for the farmers on whose land the windmills are locating. More than ten counties are now home to such windfarms. How do taxing bodies assess and tax such facilities in their environs? This program will provide information on the present “climate” of windfarms in Illinois and the tax value of these structures.
  • “Looking Ahead: Do You Have Enough Groundwater?” In light of the recent drought, water issues have come to the forefront for communities. Growth, in addition to traditional agricultural uses, has increased demand for adequate supplies of clean water for drinking and other purposes. Some counties have begun studies of their groundwater supplies, others are asking if they should. A moderated panel will discuss water issues throughout the state.
  • “Improving Rural Public Transportation in Illinois ” For years, access to transportation has created some serious obstacles for residents of rural Illinois . Currently, 30 Illinois counties do not have public transportation, and 12 counties only offer it in urban areas. With the recent passage of the Rural Public Transportation Initiative, areas that formally did not receive public transportation assistance from the state now will be eligible to do so. Learn about operating assistance and how to create a transportation delivery system in your area.

The Campaign for Sensible Growth is an action-oriented coalition of 200 organizations working to promote economic competitiveness in the northeastern Illinois region while protecting natural resources. The statewide associations of county board members, zoning officials and regional planning councils are the professional organizations for elected and publicly appointed officials who are faced with planning decision making on a regular basis. The Illinois Association of Resource Conservation and Development Areas, under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, work for conservation within the state.

For more information about the conference, contact Ellen Shubart , Campaign for Sensible Growth, at or 312-863-6009, or Kelly Murray, Illinois Association of County Board Members, at or 217-528-5331. The conference is free for working media.

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