Joliet has edged closer to starting its first comprehensive plan in 60 years, a process that will take about 18 months once it begins.
A vote on a $249,000 contract with RATIO, the planning company that staff wants to hire for the project, has been delayed a couple of months as members of a City Council committee waited for a presentation.
Lesley Roth, an associate principal and director of urban planning with RATIO, gave the presentation last week, telling the Land Use and Legislative Committee what the city can expect to get for its money.
“It’s a guide for community decision making. This is something that gives all of your development legs,” Roth told the committee on Thursday. “The comprehensive plan acts as a guide to support the future.”
RATIO plans to meet with residents and organizations, and form a citizens advisory committee to create an outline of what development should occur throughout Joliet.
A comprehensive plan is a 40-year investment in planning for the city, Roth said.
Council member Jan Quillman, however, was looking for specific examples of what RATIO has helped to implement elsewhere. She sounded disappointed after asking what has been done since RATIO developed a comprehensive plan for south suburban Riverdale and Roth referred to a grain silo being torn down because it impeded development.
“Out of the whole plan, that’s all they’ve done in Riverdale?” Quillman asked.
But Quillman joined in the 3-0 vote recommending the RATIO contract to the full City Council for approval.
Roth mentioned Riverdale, Brookfield and Waukegan as a few examples of Chicago-area towns where RATIO has created comprehensive plans. She also brought examples of downtown redevelopment done in north suburban Highland Park and Branson, Missouri, with the help of RATIO planning.
The primary purpose of a comprehensive plan is to develop a citywide guide for where future development should take place in coming decades.
Interim City Manager Steve Jones noted that the city is working with outdated planning documents for the south end of Joliet, where warehouse development has eclipsed the residential plans once made, and no plan for changing areas like Jefferson Street.
“Some of the retailers [on Jefferson Street] have moved away,” Jones said. “Car dealers have gone to other locations. What’s the next use? These are big questions.”