Tazewell County updating comprehensive plan

Donelle Pardee Whiting
Tazewell County planners display a poster with the areas they are looking to address when they rewrite a new comprehensive plan.

As part of the first step in updating Tazewell County’s comprehensive plans, officials had an open house in the library meeting room Thursday night.

Residents were able to learn about the comprehensive planning process, review data on growth and development in the county, and speak with planners about issues they think should be addressed in the plan.

“A comprehensive plan’s most visible component is the identification of areas best suited for future development, but that is just one piece. The plan is really a blueprint for county improvement,” said Nick Hayward, a planner with the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission working on the effort. “We want to hear from the public how Tazewell County can become a better place in which to live and work.”

Hayward said the common window for updating the comprehensive plan is 10 years; although, it is not mandatory.

Kristal Deininger, community development administrator, said the purpose of the public meetings is to get residents’ input to see in what direction the county should go.

Tazewell County planners first started with a meeting with local mayors and township officials.

Although many town leaders attended in 1997, this year the turnout was small, Deininger said.

“I had hoped we would have a large turnout, but (with the small numbers) I must have faith we are doing a good job,” she added.

According to a chart on display at the open house, the purpose of a comprehensive plan is to present a vision for what Tazewell County wants to be, identify the necessary actions to achieve the vision, serve as a basis for development regulations, such as zoning and subdivision ordinances, serve as a basis for land use decisions, such as rezoning and special use requests, and guide the decisions of Tazewell County in a variety of areas.

In an effort to create a new plan, planners will address several themes, which are guiding issues in improving Tazewell County.

These themes are agriculture, the Illinois River, economic conditions, changing population, quality sustainable development and coordinated land use.

Deininger said planners also look at the county’s population growth based on the 2000 census.

“We try to address the age median in order to keep things even,” Deininger added.

After collecting all the data necessary, county officials will rewrite the comprehensive plan and redo the future land use map.

Deininger said the map is used to determine how a development project will fit in with the plan.

Occasionally a zoning issue will go to court, Deininger said, adding, “Judges will look at the plan,” she said, “and look at whether the county is following the plan.”

Among things county planners are noticing is the decrease of the family farm and more developments.

However, agriculture numbers are not necessarily decreasing, Deininger said, because some smaller farms are combining into one large farm.

Deininger also said the county’s economical health is good and officials are projecting the local economy will continue to do well.

Hayward said they are hoping to present a completed comprehensive plan to the Tazewell County Board by October 2009.

“It’s about seeing where we have been, where we are and where we are going,” Deininger said.