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Article posted: 10/15/2013 5:42 PM

Town center a vision in Hawthorn Woods plan

By Mick Zawislak

Updating plans for the future is a typical practice in communities, but Hawthorn Woods officials want to include ample perspective from residents

and others outside the boardroom in the process.

The village is in the early stages of revising its comprehensive plan -- essentially a road map for future land uses, improvements and investments -- and is inviting the public to weigh in.

"It's not just big meetings with a bunch of people sitting around staring at a 3-inch document," Mayor Joseph Mancino said.

A working group has been formed and is interviewing business owners, community leaders, residents and others one on one regarding what they think the community needs and their perceptions, for example.

The next step in the process is a community workshop from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at the village hall, 2 Lagoon Drive. Hosted by Houseal Lavigne Associates, a consultant hired by the village, the session will solicit public views on problems, issues and potential. That follows a similar meeting last week with business owners and other community interests.

The last overall look at the comprehensive plan was more than 10 years ago and the landscape has changed with the addition of more residents, the Hawthorn Woods Country Club, an aquatic center, and several new parks, for example.

After trying for three years to secure outside funding, the village recently was awarded an $80,000 federal planning grant as part of the 2008 Hurricane Ike recovery funds. The village does not have the money in hand, but submits expenses quarterly to be reimbursed.

Two areas of concentration are expected to be the development at Gilmer Road and Route 176, as well as a center of activity in the Midlothian Road corridor focused on the aquatic center, which informally is known as the Hawthorn Woods Water Walk.

A key to that will be 62 acres across the street from the aquatic center that will be donated to the village, which envisions it as a walkable gathering area.

"People want a community feel, a center of town," Mancino said. "That's the kind of thing we'll bring into focus as a collective vision."

By the end of the week, everyone will have an opportunity to go to the village website http://www.vhw.org/ and participate in the planning process, according to Pam Newton, the village's chief operating officer. Interested parties also will be able to track progress and sign up for emails.

"It's not the village's plan, it's not the professional planners telling us what to do. We want to represent the voice of the people," Newton said.

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