Olympia Fields plan session gathers resident input
By A. Jay Wagner Correspondent June 15, 2011 11:30PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Olympia Fields area residents met with urban planning heavy-hitters in an attempt to map out a vision for the town in the year 2030.
The event, “Homes for a Changing Region,” was headed by regional urban planning groups, the Metropolitan Planning Council and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, and included guidance by Portland-based Fregonese Associates. The planning knowledge came at no cost to the village.
“For us to have contracted such planning expertise would have cost us well over $100,000,” village administrator David Mekarski said.
Tuesday’s workshop involved the use of two large maps, one depicting an aerial view of Olympia Fields and the surrounding area and the other the town’s Metra corridor, a prime area for development.
Residents were divided into tables of five or six people with a facilitator on hand assisting in the placement of symbols and markers representing different development opportunities and areas ripe for renovation or preservation.
“It is very important to us to gather as much community input as possible in determining our future,” Mekarski said. “This community belongs to the people, not the city officials. Planning should not be top-down. We want residents to tell us what they want.”
Helen Burleson, a 42-year resident of Olympia Fields, had a very specific idea of how she wants the village to develop.
“I hope we can keep it lower-density than they are planning. I moved out here for space, for a peaceful, tranquil environment. When I broke ground on my home in 1968, half of the land was vacant. If I wanted to live in a congested area, I’d have stayed in Chicago,” she said.
C.J. Gabbe, a project manager from Fregonese Associates, said Olympia Fields will see the fruition of the workshop in the near future.
“First we’ll go to work digitizing the ideas and recommendations of all the participants,” he said. “Then we’ll work with the village in finalizing plans this fall, so they’ll be able to hit the ground running in the new year.”
Mayor Debbie Meyers-Martin said, “We couldn’t be more excited to get insight and recommendations from CMAP and MPC (the planning agencies), but we won’t automatically accept and apply their ideas. Their input will go a long way in helping guide our planning, but most important is getting it right for Olympia Fields’ residents.”