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Publishing trends come and go but the City’s Strategic Plan and Comprehensive General Plan had been standard reference works for local officials contemplating land use and capital improvement decisions from the mid-1980s onward.
The Comprehensive General Plan, in particular, was the product of several years of work of the City’s Plan Commission members, hosting public meetings and roundtable discussions.
The result was a highly readable description of various land uses throughout the City, providing an important reference for future policy makers.
Both plans, City officials say, are badly in need of updating.
The Comprehensive General Plan includes references to the Northwestern University/Evanston Research Park, and other economic development projects that have long since disappeared.
“I’ve kind of told people it looks to me like it’s from a different planet, not just a different era,” commented Mayor Daniel Biss at the June 14 City Council meeting.
At the meeting, Deputy City Manager Kimberly Richardson requested Council backing for a process that would lead to the creation of new Strategic and Comprehensive plans.
“The purpose of the Strategic Plan was to provide the City with a guiding document setting priorities for the next five years. It’s now 15 years later,” Ms. Richardson observed. “Typically, a city plan is updated every three to five years with an annual review.”
Similarly, she noted the Comprehensive Plan, adopted in 2000, has gone even longer without an update.
“It focused on development, transportation, and discussed housing and economic development practices that are no longer in place,” she said. “This plan is now 21 years old. Communities yearly update their comprehensive plans every 10 to 15 years.”
“Strategic Planning and visioning is the process of the City Council,” Ms. Richardson continued. “As a result of the process, it provides a clear vision for where the City strives to be in the next three to five years.”
Equally important, she said, it will involve “a community engagement process…bringing together energized voices and advocates seeking to improve aspects of life in Evanston.”
The City would have to go through the process of soliciting proposals for the development of the two plans to get a gauge on the cost, said Ms. Richardson, who estimated it could range anywhere from $60,000 to $200,000.
At the higher end cost, Council Member Devon Reid, 8th Ward, said, “I think even before we go forward with a new plan, I think we should look back and see if we’ve actually followed the last plan, so this isn’t a $200,000 expenditure plan that just ends up on the shelf.”
Ms. Richardson said some of the recommendations from the new studies could be put in place by the end of 2021 or the beginning of 2022, and worked into the budget process later that year.
Council Member Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, offered “I’m in huge support of this,” referring to the Council moving forward on the updates.
“I brought this up [the need for updating City plans] my first term in office because I had read the [Comprehensive General] Plan, and there were some things that were done, and some that weren’t. I have no idea, you know, why those decisions were made,” she said, joining other Council Members voting unanimously in support of soliciting proposals for new plans.