Preservation of farmland, promoting agriculture through public education and tourism events as well as stimulating economic growth through existing businesses in Champaign County are a few goals in a proposed update to its comprehensive plan.
The long-term strategic planning effort focuses on future economic growth and development in the county while setting forward goals that can be followed by community leaders over the next five to 10 years.
The plan, last updated in 2004, looks at the local economy and demographics in the county as well as technological and public policy conditions. Using preexisting data, the updated plan will serve as a guideline for municipalities throughout the county.
It is based on trends that will likely occur in the county over the next decade. Champaign County Commissioners are expected to vote on whether to approve the updated plan in February, according to Bradley Bodenmiller, the director of the Logan-Union-Champaign Regional Planning Commission.
The most recent update to the county’s comprehensive plan is being conducted with the help of his organization and it released a draft of the plan in December. The process started in 2018 and cost approximately $40,000 to complete and uses a mixture of funding from Champaign County, the City of Urbana as well as most of the villages and townships in the county.
“These comprehensive plans are meant to serve as guidance for counties. They are not mandates,” Bodenmiller said.
As part of the update, a public survey was conducted in 2018 that included over 700 responses. In addition to that, around two dozen interviews were conducted with local community leaders, Bodenmiller added.
Copies of a draft of the plan have been sent to libraries in Mechanicsburg, North Lewisburg, St. Paris, and Urbana. An open house is scheduled today at the County Building in order to allow residents to submit feedback on the proposed update.
The plan, which is currently 185 pages, when finalized will not be a legally binding document, but can be used as a planning and zoning document by different local boards.
“For most counties in the state, if you want to have zoning it has to be based on a comprehensive plan,” Bodenmiller said.
“It serves as the guiding document that helps assist people when they make legislative changes,” he added.
As part of a questionnaire given to community groups in the county, some questions focused on whether current zoning in the county still made sense based on current economic trends. The update to the county’s comprehensive plan, which builds upon the one first established in 1970, aims to take into account that land use opportunities, such as housing has changed over the decades.
Bodenmiller said goals and objectives outlined in the plan can be used as a guideline for communities across the county when looking at zoning codes and regulations.
It can also identify areas that would be more efficient for public transportation opportunities or where school buses can pick up and drop off students. It also identifies areas in the county that may have more population density, including housing clusters, as well as infrastructure that can be added to those areas, such as a bike path.
One area the updated plan will focus on is the “preservation of the county’s rural character and development of the majority of residential, commercial, and industrial in areas where public services are already available or nearby.”
Another component includes focusing on tourism, with an agricultural focus, that will bring in more people and dollars into the county. Those opportunities include potential wineries or specialty restaurants.
A draft of the updated plan is available online at www.lucplanning.com.
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