Residents took time Sept. 27 to participate in the first public forum for the 2017-2018 comprehensive plan for the Village of New Lenox.
The plan sets the direction for the Village and lays out actions on how to get there. It is made up, in part, by ideas raised by residents regarding land use, transportation, open spaces and trails for the community.
The process is meant to help New Lenox officials be proactive rather than reactive.
The forum, led by lead consultants Ginkgo Planning & Design, Inc., centered, in part, on three areas of focus: the downtown, the Metra train station and Silver Cross Hospital.
“We’ll look at all the issues that people have and try to come up with solutions,” said Pericles Georgopoulos, senior associate for Ginkgo Planning & Design.
Many comprehensive plans will examine a municipality by its current trends to map out the future. However, Ginkgo intends to look at what New Lenox hopes to become.
Population projections in New Lenox and Will County are growing at a rate of 2-percent based on building permit levels. As such, the Village is anticipated to grow to 25,000 people by 2030 and 43,500 by 2040.
New Lenox currently makes up 15.6 square miles. Boundary agreements formed with neighboring municipalities give the Village the ability to potentially build out to 33.5 square miles.
Georgopoulos said one of the central questions residents must ask themselves is how far out do they want New Lenox to extend.
The forum brought in a number of people to help inform the Village’s effort.
Greg Karrolich said in the 36 years he’s served as a resident, New Lenox has seen some change, but he wants to see more of it.
“I thought I’d be interested in seeing how the Village looks into both future retail and commercial developments,” he said.
Karrolich has some ideas in mind for shaping New Lenox moving forward.
“I want to see more walkability and retail in the downtown, making that a get together area in which people who drive can get there and others who do not can use Pace buses,” he said. “It would be a nice place to meet. It should have some nice, local businesses, not necessarily chains.”
Karrolich acknowledged that New Lenox’s downtown is challenged.
“We’re landlocked in terms of where we can put it,” he said. “The land by the railroad is not ideal. Unless we go south and west of the Village Commons, which is farms, the area near Silver Cross Hospital offers a great opportunity.”
Dan Spayer said he felt compelled to sit in on the forum.
“I want to know what the plan is for the town moving forward,” he said.
Spayer has been a resident of New Lenox for seven years, to date.
“I like it; I like my neighbors; I like my community,” he said.
Spayer acknowledged that New Lenox faces its share of challenges like any community does.
“I live on the south side of town,” he said. “I have to drive my car to [get to most places]. There are no bike-able areas to commute.”
Spayer said he does a lot of shopping outside of Village limits.
“There’s not many shops,” he said. “We don’t have a ton of retail.”
Spayer said he has some ideas on how the Village can become what he envisions and went on to say he wishes more residents would provide input.
The Village intends to seek further resident input in the coming months by hosting more forums.
A draft of the comprehensive plan is anticipated for completion by spring 2018. At that point, recommendations will be available to New Lenox officials on how to steer development in the areas of building permits, plan reviews, variances, conditional use permits, subdivision applications and zoning and subdivision ordinances.