By Paul Gorski
My early New Year wish is for the local governments and business agencies to develop a truly coordinated economic development and community growth plan for the region in 2015. Excuse the plethora of web-based links that will follow.
Many business growth and community improvement plans have been developed for our region, but we do not have one single master plan. The politically independent Transform Rockford group has worked for more than a year to develop a community growth plan through a series of public forums and social media. View those results at: http://transformrockford.org/finalvision/. Many people and organizations were involved in developing this “final vision.”
The Rockford Area Economic Development Council (RAEDC) has a strategic plan for 2013-2015 listed at http://www.rockfordil.com/index.php/en/about-raedc/rockforward-strategic-plan. This plan focuses on job growth, business recruitment, and retaining existing businesses. Once again, many groups, individuals and business interests were involved in developing this plan.
The city of Rockford has its own 2020 Plan, and that plan is described in detail at: http://www.rockfordil.gov/community-economic-development/long-range-planning/2020-plan.aspx. This plan was adopted in 2004 and amended in 2009 and 2011. According to the city website: “The Plan describes our community’s goals and future shape. We use it when reviewing development proposals, designing infrastructure expansions, and planning new City facilities.” The city plan is comprehensive, but only covers the city.
The Winnebago County Board adopted a 2030 Land Resource Development Plan in 2009, but is only now getting prepared to vote on the zoning ordinances that will make the plan official. This plan lays out changes to local land use, smart land use policies, and tries to reduce or eliminate “spot” zoning. I call spot zoning “random acts of kindness zoning” where zoning laws are bent to accommodate special interests. The county 2030 plan is at: http://wincoil.us/departments/zoning-and-planning/2030-land-resource-management-plan/.
So many goals, so little time. No single organization is in charge, nor does one single unit of government or group have a plan that encompasses the elements contained in the plans listed here. My wish is to have a single entity oversee all these plans. Not dictate the terms, but rather a group that can objectively report on the status of the plans, the reforms. The group should be answerable to the public. That means the group would be a political entity, and I have always seen the county as the “glue” that binds all the communities and local units of government together.
Personally, I do not have a lot of faith in the county board administering such a plan, but I am not asking it to. I would expect the board to check the status of the existing plans on a quarterly basis and offer a summary report to the public. Again, the county board would not be “the decider,” but rather a special sort of recording secretary, taking notes, and reporting results to the public and the participating groups and units of government.
The review, the summary offered by the board, if crafted correctly, could look like a coordinated plan when no such plan actually exists. We do not have to reinvent the wheel, just review the existing “wheels,” and create a coordinated summary document. This would be a step forward.
Paul Gorski (email@example.com) is a Cherry Valley Township resident who also authors the Tech-Friendly column seen in this newspaper.
From the Dec. 3-9, 2014, issue