A committee working to update Evanston’s comprehensive plan hopes to set priorities for the city’s next two decades.

Plan Commission Chair Scott Peters told aldermen this week that the city’s current plan, last revised in 2000, like most others adopted in that era basically said, “if we could have everything, this is what we want.”

“For the new plan we’re looking at priorities and building on priorities the city has already adopted as part of its strategic planning process.”

The new plan, he said, should focus on challenges and issues facing the city — including demographics and the environment.

He said major demographic changes include the aging of the baby boom generation — which will mean considerable changes in its members’ housing preferences.

And, he added, younger age groups — generations X and Y have very different preferances than babyboomers had at the same stage of their lives and are much less likely to want the big suburban house with a big lawn in a low-density development.

He said the Plan Commission subcommittee working to develop the new comprehensive plan also is focusing on ways of enhancing “quality of place.”

And he argued that ethnic and religious diversity and a robust arts community are increasingly important to attract the economic development needed to keep a community vibrant.

Peters said that members of the subcommittee plan to interview each of the aldermen individually by the end of the summer and then, starting in the fall, will hold community input sessions to continue development of the new plan.

Peters, a professor in the graduate program in public administration at the Illinois Institute of Technology, added that courts in Illinois tend to only show deference to a community’s comprehensive plan in zoning disputes — not plans developed for individual neighborhoods.

So the new comprehensive plan will also aim to incorporate principles from several neighborhood plans developed in Evanston over the past decade.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said neighbors in the affected areas will need to take another look at the neighborhood plans. “A lot of things have changed since those were drawn up,” Rainey said, “some in accord with the plans, some dyametrically opposed.”

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said she was involved as a private citizen when the last comprehensive plan was written.

“I think this is a much better approach and will lead to a much more useful document for evryone of cites it,” Wynne added.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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