Comprehensive planning will cross village lines

Trustees say plan must incorporate interests along shared corridors

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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

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

Email: Twitter: @AnnaLothson

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John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 31st, 2013 2:08 PM

Somehow I just don't see HUD as a Benelevant OP Partner! iHUD FY2011 Sustainable Communities Grantees - Community Challenge Grant Award xxxxxx The Village of Oak Park, as part of a coalition of suburban communities, will be awarded $2,916,272 for the West Cook County Transit Oriented Development Strategy. The West Cook County Housing Collaborative (The "Collaborative") is in its third year of existence and consists of five West Cook suburban communities immediately adjacent to the City of Chicago. The Collaborative's Efforts Will Create or Update Existing Comprehensive Plans for the Five Communities, allowing them to revisit outdated zoning and infrastructure plans that are Impediments to Transit-Oriented, Affordable Housing Development. The Collaborative Will Also Create an Acquisition/ Predevelopment Fund to Support Affordable Housing, Preservation and Development Near Transit Dtops in the Five Communities.

dystOPia from OP  

Posted: October 31st, 2013 11:35 AM

If one takes the time to read the actual grant proposals for USDOT TIGER (DTOP streetscaping project), HUD (Envison Oak Park), OPRF Community Foundation (PlanItGreen), etc., you will find quite a large cottage industry of grant recipients involving the same few local organizations. David Pope initiated these grant proposals while board president, which often included conflicts of interests and substantial matching funds from the village. It is questionable whether the outcomes are meaningful.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: October 31st, 2013 10:54 AM

@John, Yes, you add a lot of insight to the discussion. I was responding to you saying, "But..." before making your point, to clarify that I wasn't holding any view about the grants. Your point is well taken--about HOW Oak Park uses such grants. Yes, they shouldn't be an excuse to do things we shouldn't be doing, and spending money we shouldn't be spending. Agreed.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 30th, 2013 10:47 PM

Bridgett - I really appreciate your comments and try to add to them, not to challenge them. The amount of issues emerging in the plan process are daunting. I served on Envision and frankly found the process cumbersome. I think the results I have seen reflect that. I was uncomfortably aware of the HUD Grant and suspect of the motivation for their generosity. We know what it is. HUD and the Metropolitan desire to create a single plan for Oak Park, Bellwood, Berwyn, Maywood, and Forest Park. I was amazed how the board voted 7-0. Throughout Envision, there was no mention of a Consolidated Plan for five communities. Everything was about Oak Park and how it could be changed. Residents deserve an explanation. I love your enthusiasm and energy.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: October 30th, 2013 9:29 PM

@John, I don't have a fully developed opinion about grants, though I am sometimes leery of federal money and the justification used to spend it. My comment was to contribute a pretty relevant piece of information that was missing from this piece of reporting. A piece of information that exposes motives. Knowing why people do what they do, is helpful in defining what's really going on.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 30th, 2013 11:34 AM

Hi Bridgett ?" Yes the purpose of the new "Plan" is to enable the village to apply for a wider range of Federal Grants. But, I am not convinced the Federal Government bailing out Oak Park after a decade of fiscal irresponsibility is the best use of the Feds money. For instance; I believe that seeking federal TIGER grants to fix our streets (downtown) is deplorable and irresponsible. I think that claiming needs to replace sewers in order to get Street Scaping is unfair to communities that really need infrastructure grants. I understand HUD and the Department of Education's view that one of the best way to solve the country's poverty crisis is provide children of poverty a better education. A recent HUD Study shows that children of poverty get substantially higher test scores when they are exposed to education in richer communities. Yes, Affordable Housing will provide those children with better educations. What I don't understand is why the village took $200,000 from HUD to do a village plan when the village has the resources to amend the existing Plan90. I don't understand why village staff, which is frequently said to be short on manpower, was used so extensively ($200,000 in manpower hours) in developing Envision; the center of the new plan. Finally, I sure don't understand how a village that touts its Home Rule status as a sign of independence is choosing to seek federal government at every turn rather than facing its problems directly and solving them.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: October 30th, 2013 12:17 AM

A key point missing from this story is WHY the comprehensive plan is being done. At the Village board meeting it was made crystal clear that this was a tool to get future grant money. That the federal government asks if the project for which a grant would be applied, is part of the municipality's comprehensive plan. That if it's listed in the comprehensive plan, you have a better chance of getting federal funding.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 29th, 2013 6:26 PM

Muntz - Good point. In the Envision process the primarily were brainstorming ideas, giving opinions, and exchanging viewpoints. During most of their involvement they worked as individuals. That is very different than volunteers charged by the board with a set of objectives they must meet. They operate in a team format and have to write a complex document. The roles are completely different and have a deadline.


Posted: October 29th, 2013 5:13 PM

@JBM-Isn't the content for what is essentially "Envision Oak Park" driven by volunteers already? Are you saying that volunteers should take it from here to consolidate the plan instead of the consultants?

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 29th, 2013 3:46 PM

Let's put the cards on the table. Plan90 lasted for 23 years and the previous boards' saw no reason to change it. Then David Pope began making his visits to Washington for Tiger grants and anything else he could get for free to save DTOP. That's fine, but hooking up with HUD to get a $200,000 consultant that requires matching number of $'s in staff work hours paid by the residents is beyond the pale. Plan90 cost zero dollars. It was researched and written by village volunteers. Plan 90 did not fail. Overspending of the budget, bad planning, badly managed Tif's, and loans for the grand vision of the boards failed. So why doesn't the board continue Plan90? Because, Plan90 does not address Affordable Housing and therefore might have trouble getting funding from the Fed, State, County, etc. for building the homes. Why not just amend Plan90? Because HUD's wants a "regional" Affordable Housing Plan. That is; a plan that includes Berwyn, Bellwood, Forest Park, and Maywood. They all receive $100,000 from HUD to write plans. Assumedly, leaders from all five will then get together and consolidate the plan which to date has more than 250 objectives; some of which are off the wall and others which missed the wall completely. That should be completed just in time to write the 2030 Plan. The plan work to date has taken 15 months. From the conversation at the board table, it will be well into 2014 before the consultant's plan is even ready for plan commission and village board get to comment again. As a Home Rule Guy, I think that last night the board should have thanked the consultant, staff, and volunteers and advised the consultant that they accept the goals, but that it is preferable to the village if a volunteer team (similar to Plan 90) complete the objectives and write the Oak Park Village Plan.

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