Letter to the Editor: Elgin growth debate welcome, overdue - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Letter to the Editor: Elgin growth debate welcome, overdue

It's about time. The far-west growth plan is one of the most profound issues facing the city of Elgin .

It will have long-term financial, social and physical implications for generations, and an honest, open and inclusive community debate is long overdue.

I believe Mayor Ed Shock and the city council deserve a lot of credit (and our support) for their progressive vision for Elgin and their economic leadership.

Tom Nelson, however, has distinguished himself. Over the last year, he has been the lone, brave voice attempting to questions the logic behind Elgin 's aggressive residential growth plan.

Thanks to his efforts, the city is now evaluating the financial impact of each additional development, and the issue is getting the attention it deserves in the current council race.

Growth is inevitable, and it can be very beneficial in improving our economic base and socioeconomic diversity.

Personally, as a local business owner, I welcome growth. But, at what cost? What risk? And how much?

Financial specifics aside, the city's conclusion that growth will pay for itself is based on long-range projections and assumptions about costs, growth rates, economic development and inflation.

Financial projections are an important planning tool, but they are speculative at best. It is hard enough to project riverboat revenue or The Centre's results for 12 months, let alone the cost associated with growth over five or 10 years.

If the city is wrong, what will it cost? What are the risks?

As part of my fact finding, I have spoken to several professional planners from Kane County , Northern Illinois University and the Metropolitan Planning Council.

They have all been skeptical about the potential for residential growth to pay for itself. It all depends on attracting retail and related businesses.

More importantly, from my personal perspective, I am concerned about the "soul" of our city. The current plan that goes beyond Route 47 will create two cities divided by Randall Road .

Elgin , the community we all choose to live in, is a blue-collar, multiethnic, historic, river city. The individuals and families that locate in the new, upscale, suburban far-west development will have nothing in common with "old Elgin " and will have no reason to travel east. The new citizens will hit Randall Road and go north or south to shop, to work, to worship and to play.

Growth is inevitable, and, yes, we need to be a part of the development west of Elgin . But if we believe we are the only community suited to manage the westward growth and that we need to control that growth, then why stop at Route 47? Let's annex out to the Iowa border.

Instead, I encourage our city leaders (and candidates) to adopt a more proportional growth plan and use our infrastructure leverage to influence and profit from the additional adjacent development.

By doing so, I believe the city will achieve the benefits of growth while minimizing financial risk and preserving the personality of the community we choose to live in.

Let the debate begin.

Keith W. Rauschenberger

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