The Village of Forest Park launched a new website for the Comprehensive Plan June 13. In addition, the village’s consultants, Images, Inc., have conducted “key person” interviews with 16 prominent Forest Parkers in various walks of life to help develop an overview of the town’s history and future needs, said Village Administrator Tim Gillian.
The new site, www.pictureforestpark.net, will be a clearinghouse for updates and documents as Forest Park moves forward to craft the plan.
So far, the site contains PDF pages with maps of the village, a copy of the previous plan, a slideshow of Images Inc.’s presentation boards at the first February Open House and a summary of the Open House.
But buried deep within PDF documents on the site are clues to how Images, Inc. will organize the plan. Also, there are ideas from residents, from beefed-up bicycle trails to what to do with vacant village-owned land to a call for the village to provide Internet access throughout Forest Park.
Images, Inc. seems to be organizing their data gathering on seven facets of planning in Forest Park. They are land use and development, transportation and circulation, economic development, community facilities and services, parks, open space and environmental features, quality of life and future development opportunities. The site has a page for a village survey which is described as “coming soon.”
Twenty-four citizen comment forms were received at the open house, which Images, Inc. parsed into three categories: strengths, issues and concerns and opportunities.
Residents identified strengths in town as the village website, the many senior services, community festivals, the Forest Park Public Library, the Grove and Altenheim properties, the Madison Street business district and the (now cancelled) Forest Park Farmers Market.
Residents who filled out comment cards at the open house were concerned about the village’s internal transportation system, including perceived-inadequate bicycle lanes and pedestrian safety near the CTA Blue Line and on Madison Street. They also complained about Madison Street businesses not always being “good neighbors” when it came to garbage and noise. Some citizens urged the village to get village-owned property off the books and back into tax-generating status.
Citizen commenters also evidently worried about “the school district” being a deterrent to potential residents and about the safety of the schools. The summary did not specify whether commenters were concerned about Forest Park Elementary School District 91 or Proviso Township High School District 209.
Commenters urged the village to encourage development that would produce jobs in town, including light manufacturing on the south side.
Finally, commenters encouraged the village to be inclusive in the membership of the comprehensive plan steering committee.
Citizen ideas listed on site
Citizen commenters at the open house also generated ideas for the village planners to consider. One comment encouraged the village to create smoother traffic patterns on Madison Street going west. Another urged the village to create public/private partnerships. One commenter said the village should use the comprehensive plan to create progressive planning processes such as “form-based codes,” historic preservation ordinances, sustainability efforts and urban agriculture.
The need for indoor recreation space, such as a YMCA or indoor pool was pointed out by one commenter. Another suggested artisans moving to Forest Park in search of inexpensive housing might spur an Arts District in the village.
One commenter suggested that Forest Park become an Internet provider for citizens of the village, generating revenue and attracting more businesses and residents.
There was a call for more dog park space in Forest Park. Residents urged the village to help develop Roosevelt Road and the Altenheim property. Commenters said Forest Park would be more family friendly if more parks were created, if gambling continued to be prohibited and if neighborhoods were clearly demarcated.
Finally, the document said residents requested a bicycle path along the Des Plaines River.
Key persons interviewed
Village Administrator Tim Gillian said 16 people had been interviewed by Images during the month of May as “Key Persons” who could provide an overview of the state of Forest Park. Gillian said these people were “leaders in all sectors of the village.”
Gillian said representatives from parks, schools and the community center have been interviewed, as well as chamber of commerce members and local clergy.
“Images will use the information gathered to assist them in getting more knowledge of Forest Park,” Gillian said.
“These interviews will also serve as an information base as we prepare for the first steering committee meeting which should take place in mid-July,” he added.
Gillian also said Images has been looking at the previous plan, completed in 2001, to see what has changed in the past 12 years and assess how, or whether the plan was influential in village affairs.
Forest Park’s comprehensive plan is being financed by a grant from the Illinois Department. of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and administered through the West Cook County Housing Collaborative and the Village of Oak Park.