A Publication of WTVP

We all plan for the future: for retirement, for our kids’ education, for major purchases and vacations. Plans are simply a tool to help us get from where we are to where we want to be. Cities also plan for the future, and the most common tool used is the Comprehensive Plan.

The Comprehensive Plan asks the question, “Where do we, as a community, want to be in twenty years, and what do we need to do to make that happen?”

What sets the Comprehensive Plan apart from other plans that a city creates?

First, it is comprehensive in its geographic scope. It includes all of the land area currently within the city, as well as an area one-and-a-half miles wide outside the current corporate limits. Second, it is comprehensive in its topics. It covers everything from land use to public safety, from recreation to housing: everything that is important to life in a city today and 20 years from now.

Why is it important to have a Comprehensive Plan?

First, it creates the legal basis for zoning. Second, it creates development criteria for future development outside the current city limits. Third, it provides background information and recommendations for policy and administrative decisions the city may take. The Comprehensive Plan was last rewritten in the early 1990s, with an update in 2001.

What is the process for the creation of a new Comprehensive Plan?

Summed-up in two words…it is open and engaging. One of the overriding goals of the Planning Commission and city planning staff from the outset of this process was to provide every citizen and stakeholder in Peoria’s future an opportunity to become engaged and provide input to the Plan. To that end, the process has been structured so as to allow people to attend several meetings scheduled throughout our community to participate in dialogue with fellow citizens or provide input and feedback online. We seek to have thousands of people involved in the planning process—quite honestly, the more people involved, the better the Plan.

The first opportunity for public involvement included nine topic area workshops that were held from May to August of 2007. Hundreds of invitations were sent to residents and organizations that may have been interested in attending the workshops. Each workshop focused on a specific topic so “smaller” topics would not be drowned out by larger topics, as can happen at general meetings. These workshops were very successful, bringing over 200 people together to discuss visions, goals and actions for each topic area.

The second opportunity for public outreach and comment is even more expansive through the Internet. A website funded by a $15,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity was recently developed and launched by the City. It allows anyone in the community to comment on the topics included in the Comprehensive Plan at any time of the day or night, thus avoiding scheduling conflicts that can happen with public meetings.

The website contains all of the background data presented at the topic area workshops, as well as a summary of the suggestions provided by the public. The heart of the website, however, is an online survey. This survey includes questions designed to further refine the goals and actions suggested at the topic area workshops and will also include additional questions and opportunities to comment on topics of importance to the community and Comprehensive Plan. All of the responses will be tallied and fed back to the public through the website, and, eventually, to the Planning Commission and the City Council.

So, whether you log on to the website from your home, office or public access computers at our public libraries, virtually any person in our community can weigh in on issues of interest to them. The website address is

Additionally, several general public meetings will be held in March of this year to allow the public to provide comments on the data, information, goals and actions already submitted. The schedule for these meetings can be found at the website. After the general meetings have concluded, several months of formal public hearings will be held before the Planning Commission. If all goes as scheduled, by October 2008, a recommended Comprehensive Plan will be sent from the Planning Commission to the City Council for adoption.

What are the findings so far?

In less than one week at the time of this writing, the website has received more than 1,000 visits and over 650 online surveys have been completed.

The survey results indicate that residents of Peoria consider public safety, public education, economic development, and infrastructure as the top four areas of concentration. The highest levels of satisfaction are found in public safety, public health and recreation.

The largest number of respondents is from the Fifth Council District (27%) and the Second Council District (21%). By zip code, 61614 (29%) and 61604 (22%) lead the way.

There is also a high degree of interest in quality development and redevelopment with a focus on the sustainability, or “greenness” of residential, commercial and industrial developments.

One of the most interesting aspects of the process so far is the interconnectivity, overlap and convergence of seemingly different topics. Discussion of infrastructure drifts over to public safety, and discussion of public safety drifts over to public health, etc.

For example, lead paint poisoning is a public health issue; but since most of the poisoning occurs because of deteriorated housing, it also becomes a housing issue. The density of new residential development is a land use issue; but as development becomes more spread out, emergency response takes longer, thus making it a public safety issue.

The requirement to provide sidewalks with new development is an infrastructure issue; but as it also allows people to have ease of access to exercise, it becomes a public health issue. Throw in bike/walk trails; and now it’s an infrastructure, public health and recreation issue.

The development of residential subdivisions with one or two access points and many cul-de-sacs is an infrastructure issue; but because of the difficulty that emergency vehicles can have getting to a location, it becomes a public safety issue. Increasing the number of good paying jobs in Peoria is an economic development issue; but it also impacts housing and neighborhoods, as households with more disposable income are generally able to take better care of their property and their neighborhood.

In summary, all of these overlaps and intersections point to the importance of taking the big picture—the comprehensive picture—into account before policy and administrative decisions are made in one area when other areas may be impacted. The ripple effect of a seemingly simple infrastructure decision may, in fact, have profound effects on public health, recreation or any other number of areas of importance to living in Peoria.

In the final analysis, Peoria’s Comprehensive Plan is the community’s plan and should reflect its desires, goals and aspirations for the future. And, while the Planning Commission, with the assistance of the City’s Planning and Growth Management Department, is tasked with overseeing and coordinating the development of the Plan, its success will be determined to a large degree by the investment you, as a stakeholder, make in this planning effort. So please take the time to participate in the process in the manner which suits you and encourage others to use the website, take the survey and attend the general meetings and public hearings. Let us know what you want your community to look like in 20 years; and tell us how you think we can get there. IBI