So do you want to know what’s going on with Forest Park’s community development? Here’s a quiz with possible answers and some opinions.

1. Is the current building process clear? Answer: NO.

Just try to analyze our flawed and outdated zoning codes. To be compliant or to be non-compliant? This question then becomes, “how much can I get away with until I get caught?”

Do we practice a mix of long-term comprehensive, transparent planning, open to inclusion for residents, environmentalists, developers, planners, architects, business groups, public education institutions, affordable housing advocates, social services, best practices, public transportation groups, real estate professionals, regional players, and economic development actors? Yes, but rarely and then only in a highly fragmented manner. In reality, a small group of people make the decisions. Sometimes those decisions are made in an ad hoc, discretionary manner.

2. Does community-wide “public” engagement get conducted on an equal playing field when it comes to Forest Park’s community development process? Answer: NO.

3. Does our building process get implemented in a responsive and accountable manner? Answer: NO.

Red tape contributes to a process that just takes way too long. Failed projects partially caused by the extended approval process produces time decay. Delays negatively affect and sometimes can cause project failure. This has contributed to blight. Vacant lots erode the tax base. Fiscally, our system costs more creating polarization and tension between parties and backlash from the developer, commercial property owners, to the home improvement residents who just want to accomplish a finished project, especially when they put up their own money.

4. Are this bureaucracy, its system and its management process confusing to most of us (including the folks that administer its policies)? Answer: YES

In the past, this process was adequate and worked, but over time, its intended function and purpose changed just like anything else. New people, new needs. The bad news is that our system has quite a few negatives and spawns ineffective community development outcomes, but the good news is that no entities in Forest Park that I know of, have said no to “going back to the table” to address this situation. This is a good time for our elected officials and public servants to make this invitation to the public regarding community development or redevelopment. Invite the public. I believe they will come. Collectively build a better more sustainable Forest Park and a better future for Forest Park will come.

Take the quiz and share it with a neighbor.

Bob Cox
Forest Park