EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Planning for a healthy, vibrant, sustainable region

2014-02-23T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Planning for a healthy, vibrant, sustainable regionBy Kristi DeLaurentiis nwitimes.com
February 23, 2014 12:00 am  • 

More and more communities are focused on integrating strategies and practices that incorporate longer term horizons. The trend is to not only accommodate the needs of today’s residents, but also to plan carefully so future generations are also served.

This focus on “sustainable planning” is increasingly leading local and county governments to consider both immediate and long-term benefits, and equally value the natural and built environment.

By balancing community and regional investment with long range strategies that also preserve the environment, we ensure today’s needs are met without negatively impacting future generations’ ability to succeed.

Across Chicagoland, there are plans and projects underway that support economic, social and environmental sustainability. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning is leading the way, providing planning funds for worthy projects. In support of its GO TO 2040 Plan, CMAP initiated a Local Technical Assistance Program that provides staff support and grants to communities and other groups that support sustainable investment strategies.

To date, some 150 grants have been issued, including transportation initiatives, neighborhood revitalization efforts, economic development studies, natural resource plans and more. Many initiatives are multidisciplinary and multijurisdictional, spanning more than one community and often multiple issues. While they vary in scope and scale, they all share a common theme: an emphasis on livability, economic prosperity and sustainability for the future.

There is a similar focus and approach at the county level. With support from CMAP, Cook County is in the midst of its Planning for Progress initiative that includes a new five-year Consolidated Plan while simultaneously creating a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy to guide future decision-making. Following robust public involvement efforts, these plans will enable Cook County to be more competitive for federal funding and more able to strategically address the housing, community, economic development and residents' long-term needs.

Here in the Southland, CMAP is supporting the efforts of Calumet City, Chicago Heights, Crete, Lynwood and Lansing as they update their local comprehensive plans. With input from the community, each municipality is developing its own unique plan and policy framework that will guide land use, open space, development and community decisions. They will also incorporate strategies that help to make them more competitive and sustainable in the future.

Lansing’s plan, slated for an early spring rollout, will outline ways to maximize economic development potential and promote greater transportation linkages with a focus on sustainability and long-term success.

Other planning initiatives such as brownfield remediation, open space and recreational plans, transportation corridor studies and watershed planning are also on track — and sustainability-oriented planning in Northwest Indiana is following suit.

The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission’s 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan focuses on sustainable growth and revitalization of Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties. While in the past NIRPC had primarily focused on transportation, its plan now integrates land use, human and economic resources, and environmental policy objectives.

These efforts bode well for the future. Careful planning that strengthens both local communities and our region through sustainable efforts is key to our collective success — and the next generation’s too.

Kristi DeLaurentiis is director of government affairs and community development at Metro Strategies Inc. The opinions are the writer's.

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