By Michael Horsting, Manager, Local Planning
October is National Community Planning Month, a time to highlight the important role of planning in our communities. Planning can be summed up as comprehensive, community-focused process that enhances choices. While many people may not realize it, planning has a significant impact on their day-to-day lives. From where they live, to how they commute, to the type of home they live in, planning plays a vital role in a person’s life and well-being.
Community planning helps to create communities of lasting value based on community input, and helps leverage public and private funds that lead to business growth, job creation, and economically resilient communities.
For nearly 20 years the RTA has been involved in community planning as it relates to public transportation and transit supportive land use. By providing funds and technical assistance to complete plans, as well as support to implement those plans, the RTA encourages municipalities in the region to develop walkable and sustainable communities near transit stations and along transit corridors. The RTA’s program for this type of assistance is aptly named the Community Planning Program.
Last week the RTA finalized a list of nine new Community Planning projects, including three transit-oriented development (TOD) plans, two corridor studies and two TOD zoning code update projects. Some examples of these projects are provided below, with a complete list available on the RTA’s Community Planning webpage.
The Village of Bartlett has been chosen for a TOD zoning code update to assist with the implementation of its recently completed TOD plan, completed with funding and assistance from the Community Planning Program. By revising its zoning regulations for the TOD area to promote mixed-use, transit-supportive buildings, the Village will encourage the style of development recommended in itsTOD plan. The plan’s recommendations include the revitalization of older downtown retail properties to enhance the appeal of existing businesses, the improvement of traffic and pedestrian connectivity, which was a key priority of residents in Bartlett, and increasing the downtown residential population by focusing on new housing development to fuel commercial growth.
The Village of Brookfield is also receiving plan implementation assistance through a developer discussion panel. This is a collaborative effort between the RTA and Urban Land Institute. In a half-day workshop, members of the private development sector will work with representatives of Brookfield to offer their expert advice on development opportunity sites in TOD areas. The Village previously received funding from the Community Planning Program in 2015 to update and modernize its zoning code in the TOD areas at the Village’s three Metra stations. The community engaged a Steering Committee comprised of community representatives to develop a new code which includes a more streamlined permit approval process, form-based code zoning, and an emphasis on walkability and transit-supportive development.
The Village of Maywood and Village of Schiller Park have both been selected for the Community Planning program for TOD planning studies, focusing on respective Metra stations. Located on the Union Pacific West line, the Village of Maywood applied for an update to its previous TOD plan, which was completed through the Community Planning program in 2004. The plan update will focus on select development opportunities near the Maywood Metra station, including an analysis of the current real estate market conditions. Schiller Park’s TOD study will focus on potential redevelopment scenarios for an intermodal freight rail yard that is adjacent to the Schiller Park Metra station on the North Central Service line. With an area of over 75 acres, the closure of this yard presents a major opportunity for the Village to redevelop it as a walkable, transit-served neighborhood.
By helping local governments and their residents increase opportunities for people to live, work and shop in areas with convenient access to transit, the RTA has a role in making the provision of transit services more effective, promoting environmental sustainability, providing opportunity for household cost savings and supports public health benefits through a more active transportation lifestyle.
For more information about the RTA’s new Community Planning Program as well as a detailed list of new projects, please visit our website.