By Anna Lothson
Oak Park's Comprehensive Plan could get a bit more comprehensive.
Members of the comprehensive plan advisory committee addressed the village board Monday during a special meeting to discuss the vision statements, statements of importance, and goals and objectives for the plan itself. Village staff and the committee fielded a handful of questions from trustees about accepting the structure of each chapter that will help guide the plan into completion in the next year.
The board unanimously voted to approve the current structure of the comprehensive plan, but did so acting under the assumption that the plan is designed to be a work-in-progress and has room to evolve as it is fleshed out.
This plan, however, won't be finalized without taking into account, and possibly having meetings with, Oak Park's neighboring communities. The concept of having a multi-regional meeting that involves towns which share borders with Oak Park received positive feedback from trustees.
"I think that's a great idea," Trustee Colette Lueck said. "Anything we do to build and expand that is a great suggestion."
Trustees last heard an update about the comprehensive planning process in early September, when the group offered some skepticism about being overly specific when creating a plan that is supposed to guide Oak Park's vision for the next 15 to 20 years. The process itself has also involved community outreach, including four village-wide workshops, eight neighborhood workshops, three business workshops, six student workshops, a boards and commission workshop, and 19 do-it-yourself workshops.
Trustees have urged Houseal Lavigne Associates, the consulting group Oak Park hired to head the project, and the planning committee to remember that Oak Park's next plan must be overarching without promising too many unrealistic outcomes. They have also urged it must address the areas community members have identified as being critical in Oak Park's next plan.
Lueck said during Monday's meeting that it's important the board realizes the plan is not written specifically to guide the village board, but to also give organizations and people in town a sense of Oak Park's vision. The overall goal is to align the needs of stakeholders.
"I think the thing to remember is that the underpinning of this plan is that it's a visionary plan," Lueck said. "It is very comprehensive and very broad but it needs to be. ….This is a plan where everyone can find a place that fits them. I think it would be a failure if it weren't a work-in-progress."
Trustees said that "work-in-progress" concept should also include reviewing major aspects of the plan, such as developing Harlem Avenue, North Avenue and Roosevelt Road, from a corridor perspective. Trustee Ray Johnson said more language should be included in the plan to emphasize the need to work from a multi-jurisdictional perspective. He urged that the plan be moved forward.
"Let's do this quickly," Johnson said. Board members agreed and approved the planning committee to continue on its path.
As its been described throughout the process, a comprehensive plan is intended to be broad, overarching, and designed to provide a foundation for future decision-making. It has been described as a roadmap for the next 10-15 years but is not intended to dictate zoning regulations
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