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Final draft of Whiteside plan ready for review

Public hearing Tuesday; adoption coming next month

Published: Thursday, June 12, 2014 1:15 a.m. CST • Updated: Thursday, June 12, 2014 11:12 a.m. CST

MORRISON – The final draft of Whiteside County’s first comprehensive plan, which the board is expected to adopt at its July meeting, is available for viewing at whitesideplan.com.

The draft has been revised to include final edits requested by board members and a few minor policy changes, generally to clarify ambiguous language, but still is substantially similar to the April and May drafts, consultant Jason Valerus of MSA Professional Services said in a news release Wednesday.

A public hearing on the 5-year plan, which primarily calls for more collaboration and cooperation between local government entities when it comes to economic development, will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, prior to the board’s regular meeting at 7 p.m. in the Whiteside County Law Enforcement Center.

All comments are welcome.

The plan, which has sailed along with almost no controversy, will be introduced for adoption at this meeting; the board is set to formally adopt it at its July 15 meeting.

Among the plan’s recommendations:

• Expand the use of the Whiteside County Airport, in part by using better and more aggressive marketing, and evaluate the potential for a contract “to meet the air transport needs” of the Thomson prison.

• Protect and preserve wetlands, woodlands and other sensitive ecosystems by making sure they are mapped by the county’s GIS system and are identified on site plans and preliminary plats.

• Continue to use the LESA land evaluation system to give preference to agricultural land preservation, while maintaining enough flexibility to allow for rezoning for job creation – like the board did when approving the Wal-Mart Distribution Center.

• Revise the A-R Agricultural Residence Zoning district to explicitly acknowledge the county’s agricultural setting and the “right to farm,” including odors, noise, dust, etc., that are common to ag operations.

• Encourage residential builders and contractors to follow the Uniform Building Code, and encourage the builders of any new subdivisions to create buffer zones screening them from roads, and helping them blend in better with the natural surroundings.

• Support home-based entrepreneurship by revising the zoning ordinance that regulates and prevents negative impacts on neighbors, such as excessive traffic, light and noise, while still allowing people to build businesses in their homes.

• Create and convene a countywide Housing Task Force to address the needs of elderly, special needs and low-income residents.

• Develop a countywide bike and pedestrian plan that establishes contiguous routes throughout the county, and pursue grants to meet this objective.

• Protect and preserve rural cemeteries by creating a study group to identify existing cemeteries, document their ownership and needs, and encourage private groups, such as Boy Scout troops, to “adopt” and maintain them.

• Periodically survey residents to find out what they know about, and how satisfied they are with, Whiteside County Public Transportation.

• Promote “heritage tourism,” focusing on key county historic sites such as the Hennepin Canal, Ronald Reagan’s birthplace and the Hopewell Indian Mounds, and work with regional tourism groups to support agri-tourism by identifying, encouraging, and promoting the farms that invite visitors for tours, training, self-pick sales, seasonal events, etc.

• Create a countywide hazard mitigation plan, to plan how to respond to, and recover from, major disasters.

Can't attend?

Comments on the final draft of Whiteside County's first comprehensive plan can be shared at Tuesday's public hearing, or can be sent to Betty Steinert at bsteinert@whiteside.org or Whiteside County Economic Development, 200 E. Knox St., Morrison, IL 61270. She can be reached at 815-772-5175.

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