Left Justified: Rockford 2002 planning for the future

Left Justified: Rockford 2002 planning for the future

By Stanley Campbell

By Stanley Campbell

Rockford 2020

planning for the future

In this 150th anniversary year of Rockford’s founding, you should pick up a copy of the Plan 2020. Not only is it a specific list of activities the city will try to implement, but it’s a good read and a great history. Wonder how the city got urban sprawl on its east while the west side degenerated? You can trace it here in its plan.

Roads, sewer and water drive development. Let me reiterate: put in a new road and lay some sewer line along it; a development will “magically” appear, and the city will provide water. If it’s a big box store that generates a lot of sales, the city will make money off the sales taxes.

If it’s a housing development, the city may lose money unless they charge everyone a fair development fee to pay for the services. Of course, if they allowed a housing development with cottage industries that paid lots of sales taxes, I think everyone would be happy.

We environmentalists, though, are never happy. Putting a parking lot on top of the best farmland in the world is disappointing, especially when you have a deteriorating west side that could either be rehabbed or redeveloped.

But the Plan for Rockford is fair. It talks about “infill” (putting housing in empty lots) and rehab and redevelopment where there are already city services (thus saving lots of money) but spending money on supporting that rehab.

The city finally loves the Rock River and will strive to protect it and make it more beautiful and accessible. That is, until you get to where the beautiful Kishwaukee River flows into the Rock just below the airport. This historic area where many Native Americans built villages and mounds is now slated for industry and housing. The Kish’s already been moved once. To allow for airport expansion, the Kishwaukee River was moved south. (Isn’t modern man powerful?)

Somehow, the 2020 Plan says that this natural wetland should be light industry and housing instead of keeping it as a flood plain and “not suitable for development.” The plan wants to bring in “sufficient fill to raise the area out of the floodway and that any required wetlands mitigation is carried out.” What this means is, the city will dump a lot of dirt in this flood plain, thus raising the water level of the river and causing more flooding downstream.

“Wetlands mitigation” means that the city will try to find some land somewhere and turn it into a pristine wildlife wetland area. That’s to obey the letter of the law that says if you destroy wetlands, you have to build some somewhere else. We may be able to move rivers, but it’s very difficult to recreate wild wetlands. I think the city would be better off trying to improve the existing natural area and to lift up the confluence of the Kishwaukee and the Rock as a historically significant place.

Hope you get a chance to read more of the 2020 Plan and see where your tax dollars are going.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

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