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End in Sight for St. Charles Plan Panel

St. Charles Comprehensive Plan Task Force strives to strike balance among diverse, often opposing public views on shaping the city's future.

The St. Charles Comprehensive Plan Task Force on Wednesday night pressed on with final revisions of a draft plan that will be the subject of an open house in two weeks, followed by a final meeting in December before the proposal would be passed to the Plan Commission.

Like everyone else, task force members are headed into the holidays — but they also are entering into the home stretch of their efforts. Once they pass the draft plan along with their recommendation to the St. Charles Plan Commission, their work will be complete, Task Force Chairman Mark Armstrong said before the start of Wednesday’s meeting.

When the Plan Commission accepts the baton, the draft plan moves to the next stage of the approval process that ultimately would end before the City Council.

In the meantime, however, the task force continues to refine a draft plan that has been months in the making and around which there has been no shortage of tension — and rightly so. The plan is intended as a sort of blueprint to guide development within the city for the next two decades, and much is at stake. As a comprehensive plan, it touches all areas of the community, from the West Gateway through the downtown to the East Gateway, and all kinds of development — from commercial to residential to industrial.

Through its months of work, the task force and Houseal Lavigne Associates, the consultants the city hired to assemble the draft plan, have been taking input from all interested parties and the myriad aspects of what is being considered and trying to assimilate it fairly into one thorough document.

Sorting and weighing that input has been a sensitive issue. As in any political process, some groups have emerged as very vocal and have shown up in number as drafting of the plan has unfolded. Much of the more vocal concerns have been in opposition to the development in the West Gateway area of multifamily housing — a planning term that includes apartment buildings.

Still, the task force also must consider those who have been less publicly vocal but no less ardent about their views.

That dilemma was apparent Wednesday when consultant Devin Lavigne defended a part of the plan with a word choice characterizing the extent of the opposition to the development of apartments. He said that during the public comment process, which included written comments, emails, and private interviews, there were repeated indications that the opponents of multifamily housing might not represent a true cross-section of the community. He included that in the report, he said, because it adds transparency to the process.

Ultimately, however, that part of the draft may not be a part of the final revision that is passed on to the Plan Commission.

Even so, that part of th evening's discussion illustrates the difficulty the task force faces in a process that assures those who perceive the greatest threat — or the greatest opportunity — have a vested interest in making their voices heard and heard well throughout the process.

The task force’s work, particularly at his point, as it pores over the 125-page draft document, is largely mundane: Checking for spelling errors, words that should be changed, the consistent use of various terms throughout the document. Task force members even are concerned about accurately reflecting the businesses mentioned by name in the plan. For example, task force members asked the consultants Wednesday night to update a reference to Chord on Blues, which closed and reopened as River Rockhouse. Harris Bank also underwent a name change after the comprehensive plan process began.

Still, the task force finds itself in a process that remains a balancing act — respecting and expressing the sometimes conflicting views that have been pushed forward through the process. Even subtle word choices in some parts of the draft plan can fall under suspicion if one interest group feels its views somehow are given less weight by the words used to describe them.

The task force has two more meetings scheduled on the draft comprehensive plan. The first is an open house from 6 yo 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, in the City Council Chambers on the second floor of the St. Charles Municipal Center.

The second is a formal task force meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, also in the City Council Chambers. At that meeting, the task force likely will decide whether or not to recommend that the Planning Commission approve the task force’s final draft.

Then a new phase of the process begins.

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Ted Schnell November 17, 2012 at 03:12 AM
Go ahead and disagree, Josephine. I wrote what I understood based on what I heard being said during a public meeting. In context, I do not believe I got that wrong. Further, it is pretty apparent by the strength and tone of some of the remarks on this issue that how something is read or interpreted depends frequently on whose set of glasses you are wearing. I generally have two pairs with me at all times, but not those of the advocate or the critic — I'm wearing the glasses of the student who is learning about this particular comprehensive plan process after it is nearly completed. My task is not to decide which side is right and which is wrong. My story simply noted the task, a balancing act, that is before this committee. Each “side” has its own agenda. I not only respect that, I applaud the passion for this community these agendas represent. I also suspect some of these passions are entirely self-seeking. That’s a part of human nature. But it also is a part of human nature to present yourself, your views in the best light. When views are challenged in a venue such as this, truth becomes more difficult to maintain because the issues here are far more subjective than an absolute truth.
Ted Schnell November 17, 2012 at 03:16 AM
Thanks Henry -- that is much more timely than I might otherwise have believed. Quite frankly, I wish I could audit that stats class again. I suspect that points I did remember are not complete. Of course, I took that class about 30 or so years ago ... and I learned when I was in my 30s that memory isn't as good as we like to think it is.
josephine s. November 18, 2012 at 06:06 AM
Yes, Henry, the St Charles Priorities Survey illustrates my point-it was polling residents across the city-not "NIMBY" opinion.... there is just no evidence of numbers of residents in favor of more residential, in any document of any kind. Yet, this document is being downplayed now , while it was the "end all and be all " of evidence presented triumphantly, for the bridge. Hey, Ted, now you're suggesting residents attending the process "don't care" about a complete Plan, as if that might be the reason for the Task Force to be overlooking further study of key areas. Now, that's just not even possible-the direction and emphasis of the Plan has not been determined by public comment...that is clear. What drives the Plan? The scope is clearly stated as addressing "every land parcel", in the text of this draft. And yet, it has not .....yet. But it can. As any author, or any group in any collaborative production of any kind, you finish a final draft, you step back far enough to see the whole view, looking for missed areas , opportunities to tell the complete story-you drop a chapter, you add-in....it's not a negative, to step back and see areas of importance, and then, take the time to deliver a finished product.Hope they do.
Ted Schnell November 18, 2012 at 07:01 AM
Josephine, I would appreciate it if you stopped putting words in my mouth and twisting what I said while conveniently ignoring the context. Go back and read it again in context and then tell me I said people don't care.
Henry James November 18, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Ted to answer Petes question I beleive it is not that those who have attended don't care or that it is a natural processes, it is two fold. 1) The bigger parcels that are being discussed are contriversal. This new comp plan is a very important step for them. 2) revised plans aren't released for viewing except for a few days before the meetings very often so there just isn't enough time to review the big parcels and the smaller ones. In fact at the couple of task force meetings I have attended over the last year this last one was the first time they had used the projector to show what they were looking at. I know Ms. LaSota and Ms. Malay have been to more so maybe they saw something differnt but I don't beleive that to be the case. I would also like to add this. I feel a Dec 12th approval is moving it too fast. Josphine is right that we should be taking a step back and looking at everything one more time in smaller sections so that we do address those smaller proeprties.

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