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By Jean Lotus
The Village of Forest Park took the first step in crafting a brand new Comprehensive Plan by hosting a three-hour open house Wednesday night at the Howard Mohr Community Center.
Easels ringed the room, supporting maps and timelines crafted by representatives of Images Inc., the Wheaton company hired to conduct the plan.
Coffee was served and roughly 30 citizens signed up to be on the plan's steering committee, according to Village Administrator Tim Gillian.
A "Sexually Oriented Business Overlay District" marked in plum stripes on a zoning map caused some tittering among observers. Areas north and south of Industrial Drive on the south side of town are officially designated for such businesses after a 2007 pre-emptive zoning change that was meant to corral hypothetical "adult-oriented" establishments away from Madison Street.
Plenty of village hall "regulars" showed up, including several commissioners, but there were also new faces, said Gillian.
"People were asking good and relevant questions, and they were thankful for the opportunity to be there and looking forward to more," he said.
"We still need to reach out to some groups that need to be represented on the steering committee, such as the clergy and local businesses," Gillian said.
Residents also brought their own ideas. Recreation board member Jennifer Wolfe displayed artists' renderings showing a park and sculpture garden setting at the village-owned Altenheim property.
Urban planning graduate student John Carlisle, a Forest Parker, carried a map scribbled with ideas. Carlisle said his daily walk to the Blue Line terminus on Desplaines Avenue felt "dangerous." He recommended redeveloping the Desplaines on and off ramps at I-290 with more visible crosswalks and pedestrian signage to make them more bicycle and pedestrian safe.
Carlisle also suggested adding a bicycle path along the Des Plaines River north of Madison and marketing the vacant car dealership on Roosevelt Road and Desplaines to the Regional Transportation Authority to use as a PACE bus turnaround and office space.
"I also think they should lower the speed limit on Desplaines [between Roosevelt and the expressway] to 25 miles per hour," Carlisle said.
Images Inc., whose website slogan is "context sensitive solutions," will be paid $100,000 for the plan, which was funded by a $3 million HUD grant to the West Suburban Housing Coalition.
According to Gillian, about 25 Forest Parkers submitted specific ideas to Images Inc.
The next step, Gillian said, is to craft a resident survey asking for ideas about improving Forest Park. Images may have a template, he said, but then it would be fine-tuned to address Forest Park-specific issues.
The previous Forest Park Comprehensive Plan, crafted in 1999, is posted on the village website.