The road to create a master plan for Madison Street began last week with a few bumps as complaints arose over the composition of the steering committee, which is intended to ensure the process moves ahead efficiently.

Trustee Martha Brock pointed out that the 15-member board had no racial/ethnic minority members. “I would like to see that added to this committee,” she said at the first joint meeting of the village board and steering committee last Thursday night.

Which groups?#34;commissions, neighborhood associations and business organizations?#34;would be represented was suggested by staff and approved by the board. Those groups sending representatives to the committee picked the participants themselves.

“We’re either for diversity or we’re not,” Brock said in an interview after the meeting. “It’s prevalent to all of us in this community.”

Village Clerk Sandra Sokol, a Madison neighbor for 33 years, agreed, and added, “Not only is the mix of the neighborhood not represented here, but it seems [the south side of Madison is more represented that the north].”

Mike Kelly, owner of First Bank of Oak Park, was surprised more small business owners weren’t on the committee, as they occupy most of the ground-level space on the corridor. Of the three businesses represented, two were institutions (his bank and Rush-Oak Park Hospital).

Dennis Marani, president of the Madison Street Business Association and a member of the committee, said he will keep business owners informed about the planning process and will try to represent all Madison businesses.

Sokol said she hoped to amend the committee composition, and President David Pope said he wanted changes to happen as soon as possible so that the list of members isn’t continually changing.

However, as of Tuesday morning, Village Planner Craig Failor said he did not know of any additions to the committee.

The first public forum for gathering input on the master plan is scheduled for 7 o’clock tonight in the Medical Arts Building gym at Rush-Oak Park Hospital, 500 S. Maple Ave. The village’s consulting firm, Madison-based Vandewalle & Associates, will gather input on “public assets and opportunities.”

Another forum is scheduled for Dec. 14, dubbed a “public visioning forum.”

The consultants will eventually develop a “preferred vision” that will be amended, leading up to a final plan that will be presented to the board May 11.

Agreement from the start

The consultants led the board and steering committee through a brief exercise of what generally they want to see on Madison and what they want to get out of the process.

Members of the two groups and staff members at the table were asked to answer basic questions about the project: What should/should not be changed? What’s Madison missing/have too much of? How would the project be a success/failure? And they were asked to identify whether they were a member of the staff, board or committee, which prompted questions from Trustee Greg Marsey, who thought no more weight should be given to what trustees said than what others said.

Marsey said he was concerned that the board’s influence might affect citizens’ input, especially after the board’s last steering committee experience, where the trustees set aside some recommendations from a steering committee’s downtown superblock proposal.

Pope said he, too, hoped his input would carry no more weight than any other citizen’s, but said that the exercise was designed to make sure the three groups were in general agreement on major points. And if not, that it was “better to know that now,” and that doing a similar process with the superblock process may have saved everyone time.

Marsey cautioned that that could pre-determine the outcome.

CONTACT: dcarter@wjinc.com

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