Council sparks development discussion

2011-06-16T12:38:00Z 2011-06-16T22:32:35Z Council sparks development discussionBy Gregory Tejeda Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
June 16, 2011 12:38 pm  • 

LANSING | The Metropolitan Planning Council and other groups with an interest in urban development are reaching out to local residents and officials, giving them a say in what becomes of their communities in coming decades.

The council, in cooperation with groups such as the East Hazel Crest-based South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association, the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, held a session Wednesday in which people viewed large maps of  Lansing.

Those people then made changes to the maps based on where they'd like to see more or different types of housing and more commercial development.

"It's kind of like playing Monopoly with your own town," said Mandy Burrell Booth, a spokeswoman for the Chicago-based council.

In recent years, the council has organized such workshops in towns across the Chicago area. The council held sessions on Tuesday in south suburban Olympia Fields and Park Forest, and on Wednesday in Hazel Crest, along with the session in Lansing at Nathan Hale Elementary School, 19055 Burnham Ave.

The 30 or so people in attendance at the workshop were asked a series of questions to get a sense of what desires they had for Lansing.

About 77 percent said they wanted Lansing to have a combination of new developments in existing neighborhoods and the creation of new communities within large vacant lots. Only 9 percent would want all future Lansing development to be of the latter type.

John Fregonese, a Portland, Ore.-based urban planning consultant who presided over Wednesday night's workshop, said Lansing is unique from many other municipalities because it has proximity to two counties (Lake, Ind., and Will, Ill.) that both have lower tax rates than Cook County.

"They are direct competitors," he said. "That will be a challenge for Lansing."

He also cited the number of automobile dealerships that exist along Torrence Avenue, saying the village may be able to create special districts that would enhance their financial value to village government.

Information compiled from the maps and suggestions for future development put together by workshop participants will be analyzed. Fregonese said reports will be made available to village officials in September.

"They will be able to study it and determine what recommendations they want to incorporate in their vision of the village," Fregonese said.

People on hand for the workshop included several local business owners, a few village trustees, Thornton Fractional Township High School District 215 board member Rita Oberman, and Village President Norm Abbott, who said he was interested in gathering as much input as possible from local residents.

"I'd like to get an idea of what the people see as the future of our community," Abbott said.

"I'm particularly interested in what they think about housing and what kind of economic development they think we should try to attract."

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