Well it took a while. But finally the village government has unveiled a wide ranging opinion survey for residents and business owners to complete. The survey is part of Forest Park’s Comprehensive Planning process – a start-and-stop affair where the well compensated consulting firm has yet to impress us.
Mainly our gripe with Images, Inc., the consultant, has been its inability to engage Forest Parkers in a planning process which is supposed to be driven by citizens. Past efforts have been organized late, promoted poorly and have focused on platitudes more than planning.
That’s why this survey is so important, though we are still uncertain exactly how it is being distributed to residents to insure a strong and broad response.
All that said, we think the 40-question survey is well thought out and covers important ground. Subtract the dozen questions aimed at teasing out demographic information – age, race, income, owner or renter – and the survey then goes to specific land use issues which are really the crux of a comprehensive planning document.
There are questions on what types of commercial uses residents favor, if the current base of industrial uses, mainly along Industrial Drive, is adequate and adequately contained. There is a proper focus on Forest Park’s bonanza of transportation options with a new focus on walkability and biking as viable options for the government to support.
There is also an important question about infrastructure priorities and we’d urge residents to push sewer capacity to the top of that list.
We’re a little perplexed by all the space given in the survey to questions related to 512 Desplaines Ave. This is not a prime development site and we would be surprised if residents have clear ideas on its future use.
On the other hand, Forest Park’s greatest potential site for development is Roosevelt Road, and the questions asked on that topic seem fairly cursory.
A critical parcel we know is on the radar of residents is the eight acres of village owned property at the Altenheim. And here the survey is both expansive and curious. A wide range of possible land uses is spelled out – everything on the tax producing side from commercial to mixed use to single family development to parking. And on the other side of the ledger is the option of maintaining it as open space or for recreational use.
Letting it lay fallow another decade makes no sense. Residents are asked to rate their priorities in terms of the scale of proposed projects. How much open land might be required as part of a development? Should bike paths or an actual park be carved out? How might the site might be attached to the street grid for cars and pedestrians?
Then there’s the “special annual assessment.” What is the village getting at? What’s the special assessment? How much? Is it different somehow than the property tax money which has been used the past decade to pay off the loan the village took out to buy the property in the first place?
We hope residents and businesses will flood village hall with completed surveys. This is an important moment for citizens to be heard.