Elgin's new long-term plan: smaller residential lots, walkable neighborhoods

 
 
Updated 6/14/2018 7:06 PM
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  • Elgin's latest comprehensive plan emphasizes openness to adapting and reusing existing buildings. The most significant example of that is the Tower Building, which reopened this year after being converted from offices into apartments.

      Elgin's latest comprehensive plan emphasizes openness to adapting and reusing existing buildings. The most significant example of that is the Tower Building, which reopened this year after being converted from offices into apartments. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • The Reserve of Elgin on the west side in an example of "low impact design," an approach to residential development that preserves contiguous areas of open space and natural areas by clustering smaller residential parcels. The city's new comprehensive plan encourages this design for areas that have floodplains, wetlands, high slope and woods.

    The Reserve of Elgin on the west side in an example of "low impact design," an approach to residential development that preserves contiguous areas of open space and natural areas by clustering smaller residential parcels. The city's new comprehensive plan encourages this design for areas that have floodplains, wetlands, high slope and woods. courtesy of the city of Elgin

The Elgin City Council gave the thumbs-up to the city's newest comprehensive plan, which calls for the creation of smaller residential lots and green, walkable neighborhoods.

Councilwoman Carol Rauschenberger called it "one of most important documents in the city."

"It really is the guideline that we will (use to) grow and make our city livable and make our city a great place to be," she said during the council meeting Wednesday night.

The city's first comprehensive plan dates back to 1917. Later plans were developed in 1957, 1983 and 2005. The city hired consultant Houseal Lavigne Associates of Chicago at a cost of $150,000 in 2013 to help develop the current plan.

The process included community workshops and online surveys in English and Spanish, business-oriented focus groups and a design guideline workshop, along with "extensive review and re-review by staff," Community Development Director Marc Mylott said.

Elgin, whose motto is "City in the Suburbs," is a distinct community that blends 19th-century urbanism with contemporary suburban expansion, Mylott said.

The new plan emphasizes "environmentally sensible" growth and neighborhoods that accommodate public transport, walking and biking, he said.

The 2005 plan recommended big residential lots, but that's "no longer sustainable," he said.

The new plan also emphasizes promoting contiguous -- not "leapfrogging" -- development, so infrastructure can be built and connected cost-effectively, he said.

As for downtown, the plan states it "will serve as a model for pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use, residential and commercial development" and "will emerge as the face of the community, spanning both sides of the Fox River and drawing in local residents as well as visitors from throughout the region to a wealth of cultural attractions, unique shops and restaurants, special events, and festivals."

Council members complimented city staff members for their work on the 167-page plan.

"I don't think the public realizes ... how extensive the comprehensive plan is," Councilwoman Tish Powell said. "It serves as the basis for a lot of what we do as a community" including applying for grants, she said.

Elgin: 2005 plan's residential lots are 'no longer sustainable'

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