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Village Vision News

Village planning session held

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Michael Hoffman of Teska Associates, Inc. made a return appearance to the village for the Aug. 17 board meeting held in the community room of Forsyth Public Library. The purpose of his visit was to lead a strategic-planning session.

“The village’s strategic plan,” Hoffman said, “should be a guidepost that you refer to occasionally, maybe quarterly, by formally putting it on an agenda.”

The difference, Hoffman said, between a comprehensive plan and a strategic plan has to do with timing. The comprehensive plan is for the long-term, a broader-picture tool. The strategic plan is short-term and requires immediate action.

According to feedback that Hoffman had gathered from the group prior to the meeting, economic development, attracting new businesses and developing affordable housing options to attract more families to the area were of prime concern to participants.

Hoffman also used the acronym SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely for setting goals that establish the community’s direction for the next five years.

The evening’s discussion was laid out in a format that hit key points, including strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

To start the conversation, Hoffman asked that the discussion keep moving, that a range of topics be covered and that everyone be involved. He asked that there be no side discussions and that no one dominate the conversation.

Among the village’s many strengths were its people, its stable finances, location, safety, schools and parks, to name a few.

Weaknesses mentioned included too much high-end or expensive housing, dependence on retail, school district finances, no community center or meeting place and an anti-business perception.

Opportunities included trying to develop more affordable, mid-range housing opportunities like Prairie Winds development in order to attract more young families. A community pool was another opportunity mentioned and a grocery store is on everyone’s wish list. A superstore like Hy-Vee or Meijer, to be specific as Trustee Jim Peck said, would fit well in the vacant Sears space at Hickory Point Mall and give the mall a boost at a challenging time, he said.

Opportunities that Trustee Kerstin Trachtenberg expressed were improving the look of the Route 51 corridor, and she thought the hotel/motel tax should be increased to a rate similar to that of Springfield, Champaign-Urbana and Bloomington-Normal

Threats to the community included: the state budget crisis, job migration, struggling mall, shrinking of the county due to job losses and the possibility of the power plant closing.

The change of venue for the evening from Village Hall to the library was to accommodate a large group that included Mayor Marilyn Johnson, trustees, Village Administrator David Strohl, Public Works Director Larry Coloni, Library Director Rachel Miller and Community, Economic Development Coordinator Emily Prather and Village Attorney Jeff Jurgens.

The session lasted until 9 p.m., which was the time limit Hoffman had set ahead of time. Based on Hoffman’s recommendation, Strohl said that there would likely be another session in the future.

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