Joliet seeking comprehensive plan update for downtown

The city of Joliet is looking to update its comprehensive plan.

At a recent meeting of the Joliet Land Use and Legislative Committee, planning department staff provided an update of its intent to take steps to satisfy this aim.

The city over the years has completed area plans in which consultants highlight recommendations and non-binding guidelines for certain parts of town.

“We don’t have an all-encompassing plan of all limits of the city,” Director of Planning Michael Schwarz said.

In 2015, members of the Joliet City Council adopted a downtown development plan.

Schwarz said the city’s downtown has seen a lot of positives occurring over the last few years.

The comprehensive plan, if adopted, will look at land use, zoning, transportation, preservation, social service issues and the environment. It would provide a set of recommendations to help guide the city’s direction for the next 10-20 years.

“We’re trying to hammer home with the request for proposals that we don’t want a cookie-cutter plan, we want a really innovative plan that is … something that the council for the next decade can rely, look back on, and use as a blueprint in making zoning decisions,” Schwarz said. “And use it as guidance.”

Funding to complete a comprehensive plan update is included in the current fiscal year budget.

The process involves the city needing to submit request for proposals, complete a series of interviews with consultants and gather requests for qualifications.

The Joliet Land Use and Legislative Committee and/or Joliet City Council will review the matter prior to awarding the contract for consulting services.

Councilwoman Jan Quillman asked if the comprehensive plan could help the city in going to the Illinois Department of Transportation to revert Jackson, Cass and Jefferson streets back to two-way roads.

“Obviously, we want to meet with them and not adopt a plan that doesn’t have a chance of being approved, but that kind of a recommendation in the transportation chapter maybe be an implementation step that comes out of the plan,” Schwarz said.

Schwarz said staff hopes to have a consulting firm under contract by the year’s end.

In doing so, the city intends to get started at the beginning of 2019 with public meetings.

“We—Community Development Director Kendall Jackson, I and staff—envision a very inclusive, city-wide planning process, as this has not been done in many, many years,” Schwarz said. “1959 was the last whole city plan that we put together. A lot of changes have happened since then. We want to make sure that we reach out to all corners of the city—geographically, age, and otherwise.”

Schwarz said the best comprehensive planning has buy-in from the community.

The city hopes to complete its update by 2020.

“We think it’ll be a really good health process with input from everyone,” Schwarz said. “Hopefully, the more input we get on this plan, the better outcome we’ll have.”