Planning & zoning: Comprehensive planning process discussed

At its monthly meeting Monday, the City of Rochelle Planning & Zoning Commission began the process of updating the city’s comprehensive plan.

Meetings in coming months will see updates

ROCHELLE — At its monthly meeting Monday, the City of Rochelle Planning & Zoning Commission began the process of updating the city’s comprehensive plan. 

The city will be working on an update to its comprehensive plan in the coming months through the planning & zoning commission's meetings. It adopted its first comprehensive plan in 1973 and its most recent update was in 2016 while working with Teska & Associates.

The comprehensive plan is intended to provide a framework for future development and revitalization based on existing conditions, trends, goals and objectives. The plan is updated every 5-7 years.  

The city has hired Teska & Associates to assist with a revision to the 2016 plan. Teska and Associates has worked closely with the city on its last three or four updates. The total estimated fee is approximately $9,560, and will include four workshops, one public hearing and all required text revisions identified within the plan.

Review committee members for the plan will include Mayor John Bearrows, City Councilwoman Kate Shaw-Dickey, Planning & Zoning Commissioner Claude McKibben and City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh. 

Pete Iosue of Teska & Associates attended Monday's meeting and laid out the plan for meetings in the coming months. April's meeting of the planning & zoning commission will be dedicated completely to the comprehensive plan, as the city currently has no other agenda items for it. 

Iosue said that the April meeting will involve the first few portions of the comprehensive plan including introduction, community development guidelines and planning strategies. The meeting that follows that one will involve the city's future land use plan and transportation plan. During the meeting after that, focuses will be community facilities & services and the utility plan. 

The final meeting would involve watershed management, economic development and plan implementation. A public hearing will also occur before final adoption. 

"I'm really looking for input as far as what's changed in town and what needs to be updated," Iosue said. "We're not throwing the old comprehensive plan away and writing a new one. Rochelle is terrific at keeping its comprehensive plan current and up to date. Most towns will just wait 20 years and write a new one. That can get expensive and leave you vulnerable."

The review committee will be meeting with city department heads and other community stakeholders for their input on the plan and planning & zoning commission members will bring updates they'd like to see to each meeting. 

Residents and members of the community that want to get involved with the planning process can attend meetings of the planning & zoning commission in the coming months. The city hopes to receive a lot of community feedback for the comprehensive planning process. 

"We want more people involved," City Community Development Director Michelle Pease said. "We want business owners and residents involved."

Bearrows attended Monday's meeting and spoke about one area he'd like to see addressed in the comprehensive plan, which is more affordable housing. 

"I think our focus in this town in the next 24-48 months better be housing," Bearrows said. "You can bring in as many companies as you want to bring, but if you brought in 25 families today and tried to put them each in a house, they're not out there. We have to have some affordable housing. And in order to do that, we need to have some public-private partnerships with developers. Because there's not the money in developing that there used to be. You drive around and you see them building all over, but you don't see it here."

City Building Inspector Geoff Starr said the city issued two new construction permits for home builds last year. Bearrows said he'd like to see a special assessment district used for a new subdivision so people that will benefit from it pay for the infrastructure. 

One firm is currently looking at property north of Rochelle for potential development, and the city has been in conversations with it, Bearrows said. 

"I firmly believe if we're begging for houses and development, then we need to step up and do our part as a community," Bearrows said. "And that part is developing a public-private partnership and having some special assessment districts to make it happen. And it can happen."

The mayor said after looking at 2016's plan, he noticed a lot of changes since it was made and that he expects to see a lot more change in the coming five years.

"You're going to definitely shape this community over the next 5-7 years," Bearrows said. "It's not to be taken lightly and it's a big and important job. One of the best things that could happen is we get this all done and it's outdated in three years."