Decision workshop aids officials - Metropolitan Planning Council

Skip to main content

Decision workshop aids officials

Follow your local newspaper or attend your community's board meeting, and you'll learn of imminent development plans in the works. As local government decision makers everywhere review, tweak and approve proposals, they also grapple with how to prepare for the region's population swell — a projected growth of nearly 2 million people by 2030 — in ways that benefit their communities.

But, in northeastern Illinois , more than 90 mayors changed seats in April, in addition to hundreds of board member turnovers and new appointments. In Will County alone, 1 out of 3 communities have new faces at the helm. Regionwide, new leaders are evaluating the merits and downfalls of housing, retail and commercial development proposals and shaping the future of their communities.

Many of these critical development decisions are being made by elected and appointed officials who voluntarily serve on planning and zoning commissions, and town or city councils — and who often lack backgrounds in community planning. Some also have neither resources nor staff available to aid in development and re-development decision making, or to help with potentially community-altering verdicts. And even for those that do, it's difficult to make informed and sensible decisions on every proposal that comes forth.

Already, communities across the south suburbs and Will County are facing that proverbial fork in the road. They are challenged to embrace cutting-edge design tenets — including new urbanist, transit-oriented, mixed-use, and conservation development — as they work to revitalize town centers and neighborhoods, maintain open space and improve both the tax base and quality of life. South Holland and Glenwood are designing new town centers; Tinley Park and New Lenox are implementing transit-oriented development plans; And Manhattan and Plainfield are trying to prepare for future growth. Meanwhile, others towns are struggling to develop a reinvestment strategy — that road map to the future. In most communities, local officials are considering development proposals at each and every board meeting — and it's critical that they carefully weigh the real, long-term effects for both residents and business owners before making decisions which will shape the Southland's future.

Yet across the region, subdivisions get approved, parcels annexed, and zoning decisions made, often without being measured against a comprehensive plan or community vision. Fortunately, there's help. Since livable, attractive communities are created as a result of hundreds, even thousands, of development decisions, last year the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) collaborated with the Campaign for Sensible Growth and the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus to develop Sensible Tools for Healthy Communities: A Decision-Making Workbook for Local Officials, Developers and Community Leaders.

The Sensible Tools workbook is a hands-on aid that helps community leaders and developers make the right decisions on new developments in the context of an individual community's needs. The workbook has become a popular tool that can — and should — be used by all communities, no matter their stage of development.

This week, MPC will partner with several area mayors' groups in an interactive workshop called "What's your development plan?" at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 30 at Orland Park Civic Center . More than 100 elected and appointed officials, planning and zoning commission members, business leaders, and other community development partners will participate in a simulation game that illustrates how the Sensible Tools workbook helps communities answer a very tough question: "How do you decide if a proposal is right for your community?"

MPC also works directly with communities to provide technical assistance on many levels. We've been invited to bring forth best practices and help leaders forge solutions to unique challenges within their communities. Here in the Southland, MPC has partnered with Beecher , Joliet , Midlothian, Park Forest and Riverdale, among others, helping address housing issues, revitalize commercial corridors, leverage transit-oriented development, and clean up watersheds and brownfields.

With so much planning and development activity taking place, local decision makers should utilize the tools and resources available to them as they face the myriad decisions and "forks" in the road. Armed with best practices and proven strategies; knowing what questions to consider before approving development; and utilizing the expertise of professional staff, consultants and partners, the elected and appointed officials will be well-prepared. Meeting the challenge to improve economic development, equity of opportunity, and quality of life with each important decision they make not only benefits their own communities but strengthens the region as a whole.

More posts by Kristi

All posts by Kristi »

MPC on Twitter

Follow us on Twitter »

Stay in the loop!

MPC's Regionalist newsletter keeps you up to date with our work and our upcoming events.?

Subscribe to Regionalist

Most popular news

Browse by date »

This page can be found online at

Metropolitan Planning Council 140 S. Dearborn St.
Suite 1400
Chicago, Ill. 60603
312 922 5616

Sign up for newsletter and alerts »

Shaping a better, bolder, more equitable future for everyone

For more than 85 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has partnered with communities, businesses, and governments to unleash the greatness of the Chicago region. We believe that every neighborhood has promise, every community should be heard, and every person can thrive. To tackle the toughest urban planning and development challenges, we create collaborations that change perceptions, conversations—and the status quo. Read more about our work »

Donate »