Rock River in downtown Rockford, Winnebago County, IL.
Northern Illinois has been facing increasing development pressures, much of which stems from the continuing migration of people from the Chicago metropolitan area to the northwest along the I-90 corridor. As a result, it was crucial that Winnebago County update its comprehensive plan or land use plan to address this trend. The recently adopted 2030 Land Resource Management Plan is a vision of how growth and development will affect land in the unincorporated areas of the County through the year 2030. More specifically, the 2030 Land Resource Management Plan details out the County's growth goals, objectives and policies as well as illustrates same via the newly adopted 2030 Future Land Use Map (replaced the Year 2010 Land Use Guide Map). The new comprehensive plan is considered a living document, subject to review every five years, if not sooner. Changes will be made as necessary to address unforeseen conditions in the County. The Plan will be implemented further through the creation of a Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), which will include a comprehensive update of existing zoning and subdivision ordinances, and a Comprehensive Financial Plan (CFP) component of the 2030 Land Resource Management Plan. The Scope of Study and Work Program was developed to provide details on the comprehensive planning process.
The 2030 Land Resource Management Plan was created in accordance with input of area stakeholders such as civic and business leaders, school officials, various interest groups, and citizenry. The Plan also incorporates existing or updated land use plans of the municipalities and townships to the greatest extent possible. This will not usurp local land use decision-making authority. Rather, it will reinforce their role as the primary agents of change while creating a coordinated vision for the future of the region as a whole. The Plan also seeks to achieve balanced growth that occurs in the most rational and efficient manner. Balanced growth has been defined a number of ways. One definition is as follows: Accommodating a measured amount of increased population and proportional economic development, while preserving/enhancing community character/livability, and minimizing the impact on natural resources and the environment.
Troy Krup, Planning and Zoning Officer and Long Range Planner, with Winnebago County Planning and Zoning, coordinated the effort with Camiros, Ltd., a planning firm based in Chicago, and Nicolosi and Associates, LLC, of Rockford. The process of developing the plan was initiated on July 19, 2006, during a Kick-Off and Scoping Meeting with the Land Resource Management Plan Steering Committee and delegates from Camiros and Nicolosi. The committee consists of seven representatives from the following County departments/entities: Regional Planning and Economic Development (2), Highway Department (1), Forest Preserve District (1), State's Attorney Office (1), Zoning Committee (1), and public-at-large, resident and business owner (1). Camiros' primary responsibility is the land use plan while Nicolosi will focus on the UDO and CFP.
An extensive public participation process had already taken place through two separate efforts: the ongoing Winnebago County Balanced Growth Initiative; and the Rock River Valley "Green Communities" Initiative. The former was funded through an Illinois Tomorrow Corridor Planning grant from the Illinois Department of Transportation. Winnebago County coordinated the Balanced Growth Initiative with assistance from Teska Associates, Inc., and the Metropolitan Planning Council. The County's task was "to establish a locally-led, multi-year initiative to educate public and private decision makers in Winnebago County on the concept and benefits of balanced growth; to encourage implementation of projects and policies or actions which reflect the principles of balanced growth; and to become a model for other counties in Illinois."
Three public workshops were held to educate the public, build a common understanding, and to form a consensus regarding development and planning priorities. Each workshop focused on particular topics: 1) economic development, education and fiscal stability; 2) natural resources, agriculture and open space; and 3) viable/livable communities. They were attended by 40 to 55 persons, many of whom attended all three workshops. The purpose of the published end product, "Principles of Balanced Growth," serves in part to provide vision and best practices for updating land use plans and affiliated regulations.
The "Green Communities" initiative was made possible through a grant from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to the following entities: Winnebago County, the Winnebago County Forest Preserve District, the City of Rockford, the Rockford Park District, the City of Loves Park, the Natural Land Institute, and the Burpee Natural History Museum. For more than two years, numerous public meetings were held, a community survey and an environmental preference survey took place, and more than 1,500 people participated in various portions of the visioning process. The end product of these activities is an action plan and environmental vision for the region that serves as a foundation for conscientious physical land use planning and design in addition to economic and community development.
"Conservation" Design "Conventional" Design
(encouraged w/in 2030 LRMPlan) (discouraged w/in 2030 LRMPlan)
2030 Land Resource Management Plan (COMPLETED)
The first portion of the planning process (Phase One: Background Analysis) documented recent demographic trends and characteristics relating to: population, housing, employment, education, and agriculture. A series of interviews and meetings with key stakeholders supplemented the aforementioned initiatives.
The interviews consisted of 12 meetings during the week of November 6, 2006, with staff/officials from the municipalities and persons representing the following interests: environmental, agricultural, economic development/real estate, transportation, schools, and the Rock River Water Reclamation District. From August through December 2006, the County Long Range Planner had given presentations to all 14 townships, the League of Women Voters, the Sierra Club, the Rockford Area Association of Realtors, the Lady Landowners, and various building and development interests. Comments, suggestions and other input received from participants in these meetings was documented.
In November 2006, a Community Focus Group consisting of more than 40 individuals/stakeholders was formed in an attempt to create a cross section of the County. The initial meeting of the group was held on November 13, 2006. The Community Focus Group was subdivided into seven subcommittees and was asked to draft recommended goals, objectives and policies for each element of the land use plan: agriculture; economic development; environmental; growth/annexation; housing; public facilities; and transportation. They submitted their recommendations in March 2007. The group also had an opportunity to provide input/ feedback regarding draft reports and documents developed during the planning process.
On February 7, 2007, a public meeting was held to present an overview of the Findings Memo, which is a "snapshot" or summary of existing conditions in Winnebago County. The Findings Memo is a compilation of demographics/ statistics, other land use plans, and results of the public participation process to date.
The second part of the planning process (Phase 2: Plan Drafting) focused on creating goals, objectives and policies for future land use and development in addition to a land use map based upon the public input activities. These were provided for many of the following components: agricultural, residential, environmental/natural resources, economic development,transportation, public facilities/utilities, and historic preservation. A public meeting was held in March 2007 to discuss recommendations from the Community Focus Group and Camiros for the goals, objectives and policies.
Two more public open house meetings were held during May and June of 2007 to present the goals, objectives, and policies to the Public, along with a compilation report, to illustrate how specific recommendations are linked to the goals, objectives and policies in the plan.
During that December and January of 2008, several key person interviews were again held, primarily with Villages/Municipalities and Townships emphasizing on the 2030 Future Land Use Map.
A draft 2030 Future Land Use Map was presented to the Public in three separate open houses between February and March 2008, seeking comments.
The third portion of the planning process (Phase 3: Public Open Houses/Forums and Adoption) consisted of the final version of the plan document.
On October 7, 2008, a Complete/Entire Draft 2030 Land Resource Management Plan was presented to the Public in an Open House at Memorial Hall, seeking further comment.
October 21, 2008, Chairman Scott Christiansen held a press conference with regard to the 2030 Land Use Plan and NRI (Natural Resource Information) Maps viewing and comment locations, plan history, and plan meeting schedule.
A special County Board Meeting of the Whole was held November 6, 2008 in the County Board Room of the Courthouse for a formal presentation from Camiros, followed by a question/answer period by the Board members. Following this presentation, the Zoning Committee opened the floor for FINAL PUBLIC comments and to consider an adoption Ordinance for the 2030 Land Resource Management Plan.
The completed plan was ultimately forwarded to the County Board for adoption with recommended amendments to. The Plan process was completed (Ordinance adopted) on May 28, 2009. The ~FINAL~ Winnebago County 2030 Land Resource Management Plan is now available inclusive of amendments for viewing/purchase. The Plan will ultimately be implemented primarily through current zoning/subdivision ordinances, and the future changes that will be made to the County zoning and subdivision ordinances via the UDO process.
Unified Development Ordinance (COMPLETED)
Phase 1 (Initial Review and UDO Draft) consisted of an initial review of current zoning and subdivision ordinances. Amendments were proposed to the zoning and subdivision chapters. An initial draft of the UDO was presented to County staff for input.
Phase 2 (Revisions) began with a presentation of the UDO to the Zoning Board of Appeals in a public hearing format. Information gathered from the ZBA hearing(s) was forwarded to the Zoning Committee for their consideration. Revisions were made after input was recieved from staff, the public, ZBA meetings, ZC Committee meetings, etc.
Phase 3 (Adoption) consisted of a final preparation of the UDO and submission to the County Board for approval.
Comprehensive Financial Plan component for 2030 LRMP (COMPLETED)
Phase 1 (Initial Review and Policy Formulation) consisted of a review of the current financing mechanisms used for infrastructure development by the County in order to better and fully implement the goals of the 2030 Land Resource Management Plan. Infrastructure requirements necessary to support Smart Growth were discussed with County officials. The financial plans of other local governments were also analyzed.
Phase 2 (Revisions may be made) consisted of a presentation of the initial CFP policy to the Zoning Committee for review.
Phase 3 (Adoption) entailed preparation of the final CFP and adoption of the CFP by the County Board.
Winnebago County wishes to thank all those that participated in a community survey held from September 25, 2006, through March 28, 2007 and at any other time afforded.
For the results of the community survey for the period of September 25, 2006, through March 28, 2007, please click on the following link: Community Survey Results.
Other Long Range Planning Projects:
Example of an existing conservation design subdivision: Prairie Crossings