MAHOMET — It’s no secret that annexations and the annexation process have been hot topics in town this spring, and although some residents seem to be caught off guard by moves to bring more subdivisions into the boundaries of the village, these kinds of things are covered in one existing guide: the Village of Mahomet Comprehensive Plan.
Village President Sean Widener explains the basics of the comp plan.
“It really kind of sets the vision for a community,” he said. “A comprehensive plan is really nothing that is required by state law. It’s the leaders of a community or agency setting the mission.
“The comp plan is a moment in time. First you’re kind of recognizing where you’ve been, but really you’re answering the question of, ‘Where do you want to go?’” Widener added. “What does your community look like in the future?”
Adopted in whole on March 22, 2016, the comprehensive plan is a multiyear project that has stretched through the tenures of three village presidents and involved both leaders within village government and members of the public, ranging from business leaders to property owners to other residents, according to an introduction to the plan itself.
Its vision statement? “Preserve, protect and enhance our community’s quality of life,” adopted Dec. 17, 2013.
Its mission statement? “Provide for the needs of today and prepare for the demands of tomorrow while remaining mindful and respectful of the past,” adopted on that same date.
The plan itself states its own purpose:
“The Village of Mahomet is a growing community located in central Illinois, immediately west of Champaign. Between 1972 and 2014, Mahomet grew from a rural town of 1,300 to an established community of more than 7,700. The population in the surrounding township has also grown considerably to nearly 14,000 in 2014. The village has adopted this comprehensive plan to guide the future growth and development of the village and surrounding areas and ensure a continued high quality of life for local residents.
“The comprehensive plan for the village of Mahomet provides communitywide plans for land use and development, transportation and mobility, open space and environmental features, and community facilities. In addition to the communitywide plans, the comprehensive plan also provides more detailed recommendations for downtown Mahomet and surrounding portions of the Middletown area.
“The plan serves as a “road map” for 10 to 15 years into the future by guiding policy decisions and helping the community achieve its long-term objectives. The comprehensive plan provides a foundation for decision-making based on community consensus, community vision, existing conditions and future potential. Mahomet’s comprehensive plan is designed to promote the village’s unique assets and should be used to achieve the collective vision of existing residents and business owners while serving to attract new families and additional investment in the community.”
To boil it down: The hotly debated annexations of multiple subdivisions approved April 23 by the current village board of trustees can be linked directly to the comprehensive plan. But whether, how and if the village should annex is just one of numerous issues that this document covers.
‘A very fascinating dance’
The comprehensive plan is, well, a comprehensive look at the community — as its name indicates.
“The comp plan is and has to look at the area, the whole system,” said Kelly Pfeifer, community development director and village planner, who has worked for Mahomet since 2013. In addition, she noted, it must be bigger in scope than just one set of administrators or leaders of Mahomet.
“The comp plan is supposed to neutralize, if you will, the changes that can occur with the elected officials, the staff and landowners,” Pfeifer said. “It isn’t people. This document is the guide. It doesn’t matter on a big functional level who sits on the board and what staff is here. And that’s the beauty of the document.
“It gets fairly specific and yet still needs to be flexible,” she added. “It is a very fascinating dance.”
Ellen Hedrick, engineer for the village of Mahomet, noted that the comp plan is both generalized and detailed.
“It’s a list of objectives. But there are some specific things in here,” Hedrick said.
And Widener noted that the plan is just that — an anticipation of what might happen and how Mahomet might handle future growth.
“The relevancy of the comp plan with relation to the vision totally depends on the circumstances that happen afterward,” he said. “So you can set a vision (and), like anything else, you have to be flexible. Certainly, going into any kind of planning exercise … setting the vision up is what you’re trying to aspire to.
“It sets the vision for the future and tries to describe it in a sense of, ‘Hey if I stand here 10 years from now or 20 years from now, and I’m standing on Main Street, what am I looking at?’ ”
How the public had its say
Public involvement in creating the plan began in 2011 and included an initial meeting, interviews with key people, an online questionnaire and more. The following are cited in the plan as the most important issues facing Mahomet: No. 1: diversifying the tax base; No. 2: improving overall appearance; and No. 3: annexation and growth. These were developed from the online questionnaire available to the public during the process of compiling the comp plan.
“The community engagement is not lost” in forming the vision, according to Pfeifer.
But the overall process to create the comp plan stalled after that time.
“It hit a stopping point after the public engagement portion,” Pfeifer said.
After some time passed from her hire date of Oct. 23, 2013, Pfeifer reviewed the draft of the comp plan.
“By the time I was knowledgeable enough to review, it was clear that enough had changed in the land uses and development statuses that the maps exhibits in particular required updating,” she said. “But we had used the budget of the project. We then defined the scope of what we believed was needed to finalize the plan for adoption presentation and the board had to approve the expenditure. After that, the work was done quickly.
“The vision that was born from the public input in 2011 and 2012 was still pertinent in 2015 due to its high level and generalized nature and the vision was for the year 2030,” Pfeiffer added. “The vision laid out by the public was not unknown to the board despite the plan not being adopted. The comprehensive plan was not revolutionary. The vision is not unlike what the community and board had been steering course toward over the last decades. If anything, the vision was a reinforcement of the properness of the policies and investment decisions the board had been making since the mid-2000s before the recession.”
In 2016, then, the comp plan was adopted. It is 141 pages and went through many changes before given a final green light. It maps out land use, what is likely to grow and numerous other aspects of the community’s projected future.
“The most pure form of what the community wanted and envisioned was the first things that were done,” Pfeiffer said. Village leaders took input from surveys and interviews of not just in-town Mahomet residents but those living on the outskirts and invested as neighbors in the community.
“It was the community of Mahomet,” she said. “It is a community-based engagement.”
The comp plan captures “a particular point in time,” Pfeiffer explained, echoing Widener’s description.
“The adoption date of the comp plan was not a milestone date that changed the trajectory of Mahomet and the related board decisions,” she said. “But the adoption date is a starting point — at that date, the specific policy, goals, objectives, land use plans of the plan were formally established.”
Plan not on the minds of residents
Among those both relatively new to Mahomet and longtime residents, focus on the comprehensive plan seems limited.
Morgan and Bryan Bolser have lived in Ridge Creek Subdivision about three years. Both said they are not familiar with the comp plan, but they have followed this spring’s debate over the annexation of some subdivisions. Theirs already is part of the village.
“I have seen quite a bit on Facebook. Specifically a friend of mine from high school’s parents live in Briar Cliff, which I feel like is one of the bigger neighborhoods being affected (by annexation),” Morgan said. “(People) just kind of rebelling against it is really all that I’ve heard.”
Mary Pettenger, who grew up in Mahomet and in Mansfield, most recently has lived in Mahomet 19 years; she and her husband Eric have and are raising their children in the village, and she operates Winderson’s Creations in the Sangamon on Main building, formerly Sangamon School.
Asked if she knows what the comprehensive plan entails, Pettenger admitted, “I do not.” She said she attended January’s public meeting discussing future plans for downtown, specifically, and is aware of the vision for that area.
“That’s all I really know about what’s growing or what’s not growing,” she said.
The comp plan is on the village website for the public to view. Pettenger said, in general, she thinks it’s clear that growth in Mahomet is not random.
“From what I see, I feel like somebody has the reins. I feel like it is going up in a structured manner,” she said. “It’s not just sporadic, I don’t feel like. I don’t think I’m seeing things just going up here and there. It seems like it’s planned out.”
“I hear a lot. I have a lot of conversations. But I didn’t know the comprehensive plan was out there, that I could just go on there and read it. Knowing that’s out there, the village is obviously providing the information that’s needed.”