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After nine years, Grundy County to update comprehensive plan

MORRIS – Grundy County opened it's doors to business owners, residents and municipalities Wednesday when it held a series of comprehensive plan workshops to gather input from all of the county's stakeholders.

"It's very important that this plan expresses what everyone wants so we need their input," said Heidi Miller, Grundy County administrator.

Thanks to a $250,000 Ike grant from the state, Grundy County is updating its comprehensive plan for the first time since 2005. The plan is being drafted by Chicago consulting firm Houseal Lavigne and will be based on input from residents, businesses and municipalities. The 20-year plan will outline specific improvements and strategies for land use, transportation, facilities, parks and other areas.

"We're seeing a tale of two counties in Grundy County," said Douglas Hammel, senior associate for Houseal Lavigne. "The county is facing an interesting identity crisis."

Hammel said keeping the balance between industrial development and rural character is a major concern for several of the Grundy County stakeholders they have talked to. Another is creating more economic development and lowering unemployment.

"Grundy is a community that's really on the edge," Hammel said. "It's on the next frontier of the Chicago region."

Hammel, and fellow associate Jaemi Jackson, held three interactive workshops on Wednesday, including the visioning workshop, which was open to residents. The first two were for businesses and municipalities.

Representatives from Coal City, Morris, Braceville, South Wilmington, Minooka and Mazon attended the municipal meeting and brainstormed a list of about 20 issues the county needs to address in the plan.

Some of the most prominent issues discussed were economic development and collaboration between the county and municipalities.

"Once we can identify the challenges and issues, we can start coming up with solutions," Hammel said during the meeting.

The county also has set up an online survey for residents and businesses so the county can gather more data and input to consider when drafting the plan. The survey will close in a few weeks, but until then, it can be found on the Grundy County comprehensive plan website,

The plan is long overdue for an update as it has been nine years since the county has reevaluated their comprehensive plan.

"Typically, you should update the plan every 5 to 10 years, but it is very, very expensive," Miller said.

The plan is being funded with $125,000 from the $250,000 Community Development Block Grant the county received in 2008.

CDBG Disaster Recovery Program – commonly known as the 'Ike' program – was started 2009 to help communities address disaster relief, restoration and economic revitalization in areas affected by natural disasters in 2008.

The 2008 flood that affected the Coal City and Morris areas caused the Illinois River to crest at a record of 24.84 feet and qualified Grundy County for an Ike grant.

"This money is coming back in order to work on the drainage system, but as a stipulation, they also wanted the county to update their comprehensive plan," Miller said.

The $250,000 grant was split in half with $125,000 funding the Claypool Drainage drainage project in Coal City and remaining funds going toward drafting the new comprehensive plan.

The county has been working on the plan since it's initial meeting on Dec. 9 and is almost done with the data-gathering and public outreach phase, Miller said.

With the data that is gathered, Houseal Levigne will develop preliminary recommendations for the county to review. After the recommendations are reviewed, Hammel said they will release a public draft of the plan that can be commented on by Grundy residents.

"The plan is for 15 to 20 years, but we hope it will be updated every 2 to 3 years," Hammel said.

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