The River Forest Village Board, at its June 12 meeting, unanimously approved an $86,500 contract with Chicago-based consulting firm Houseal and Lavigne Associates LLC to develop a new comprehensive plan for the village. 

The deal with Houseal and Lavigne spells out a multi-step process culminating with a final document that the village will use to plan for long-term community needs like transportation, land use and business development. The previous village plan was produced in 2003. 

“Certainly John has a working knowledge of the village, has some institutional and historical knowledge,” Village Administrator Eric Palm said, referring to John Houseal, a River Forest resident and principal at Houseal and Lavigne. “I think his expertise, along with some additional consultants, that will be new to the village … I think are going to provide a nice balance of that historical knowledge and perspective, as well as some fresh ideas and new perspectives.” 

The months-long drafting process is extensive and includes workshops, interviews, focus groups, presentations as well as meetings with the village board, the plan commission, adjacent communities and village residents. There will also be analyses of demographics, zoning policies, transportation infrastructure, recreational facilities, and environmental impacts. Community outreach, including social media outreach, a town hall forum, and an online questionnaire are planned, too. 

A final document, according to a timeline submitted to the board by Houseal and Lavinge, should be ready by March 2018. The village board would then consider the document and vote on approval in May 2018. 

Houseal and Lavigne previously completed a Markey Study for the village in 2015. John Houseal has worked with the village on business corridor plans and zoning guidelines, too. 

“This is great. … John Houseal certainly knows our community and his references are impeccable, and this is right up in his wheelhouse,” Village President Catherine Adduci said.

Before the 2003 plan, the last time the village commissioned a comprehensive plan was 1987. 

“Happy we’re starting this process,” Trustee Carmela Corsini said. “It’s going to be a great way to involve the community in a vision for River Forest for the next many years.”

John Houseal, in a June 20 phone call, said River Forest can leverage several clear advantages when drafting long-term development plans, including a high-performing school system, proximity to downtown Chicago and beautiful, architecturally significant neighborhoods. He added that, as an 18-year River Forest resident, he can combine an “intimate” understanding of the village with a national perspective on comprehensive planning. 

“There’s a real love for that community,” Houseal said. “It’s always going to be a desirable place to live.” 

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