A regional agency recently began analyzing hundreds of responses to an online survey about long-term housing in Chicago's northwest suburbs.
The web poll is the newest part of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning's Homes for a Changing Region project, a plan that aims to provide the suburban communities with a policy blueprint by late September.
"We're not trying to get in and demolish neighborhoods," said Drew Williams-Clark, a CMAP principal. "We're trying to say, over the next 30 years, you want to be in a position to welcome the people into your community who want to live in your community."
CMAP officials hope the study will open residents' eyes to their "GO TO 2040" plan, which predicts Chicago and surrounding counties will need to accommodate 25 percent more residents in three decades.
The agency was formed in 2005 and aims to tackle housing policy on a regional level.
"It's a chance for us to tap into resources we don't have," said Joe Wade, assistant village manager of Carpentersville. "All of us towns, we look into what's within our boundaries. We're not able to see some of the other things."
More than 300 people in the four northwest suburbs responded to the online survey, according to Jonathan Burch, a CMAP associate planner. The agency added the poll after realizing not everyone has the time or energy to attend the community workshops that also mark the public input stage of the study, officials said.
Initial results show that some of the suburbs prefer redevelopment more than others, Burch said.
For example, Carpentersville respondents expressed a "strong interest" in revamping their existing properties while West Dundee residents said they are in favor of a mix of new development and redevelopment.
Over the next two months, CMAP will take a close look at community feedback from both the online survey and public workshops held earlier this summer to issue policy recommendations for the four municipalities.
The agency will also take into account conversations with local officials throughout the spring.
In Carpentersville, village officials believe an amorphous development known as Meadowdale could benefit from the study. The neighborhood, which straddles Illinois Route 25, includes thousands of single-family, one-bathroom ranches that date back to World War II.
"That's a hard sell in today's housing market," Wade said. "What can we do to adjust our zoning code to make these homes … viable in the housing market?"
The study's potential is just as visible in West Dundee, where there is no shortage of "wide-open spaces," said Cathleen Tymoszenko, the village's community development director. She is already eyeing about 270 acres surrounding a 1-mile stretch of Randall Road as an ideal case for the study.
Tymoszenko said she was pleased when about 40 people showed up during the Stanley Cup finals in June to a community meeting about the project.
Other officials offered mixed reviews of community participation in the project, admitting housing policy—let alone housing policy decades before it could be put in place—is not the most attractive topic.
"We've tried to frame it, 'How do you want your community to grow?'" Tymoszenko said. "That's puts a spark in people."
Village officials say they have seen little opposition to the study, which riled up some residents in Arlington Heights earlier this year. CMAP's final report for Arlington Heights and four other northwest suburbs acknowledged the need for more low-income housing in the area, leading to concerns about its impact on property values.
"We really don't have any revolts yet," Tymoszenko said.
CMAP officials stress that the project concludes with only recommendations and no legal requirements to address their findings.
At the same time, the communities have applied for the agency's guidance and are already "predisposed to working and thinking" about long-term housing solutions, Burch said.
If public input has been tamer than it was in the previous cluster of northwest suburbs, East Dundee village administrator Robert Skurla said some residents may not know what needs to be changed until it is presented to them.
"Your average citizen doesn't know what to ask for or how to ask the questions," Skurla said. "It's up for us to say, 'Here are he plans that have worked in the past.'"
Tymoszenko agreed that it may be difficult to catch the attention of residents with hypothetical scenarios decades down the line.
"That's why we're engaged on so many levels," she said. "Visioning is the first step in developing."