Decision workshop aids officials - Metropolitan Planning Council

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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.

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