2030 Land Resource Management Plan; Winnebago County, Illinois
Client: Winnebago County, Illinois
Consultant: Nicolosi & Associates
Category: Environmental Stewardship
Winnebago County, located in northern Illinois, is full of vast natural resources, from open space, waterways, and wildlife, to fertile soil for agriculture. Today, very little of its original natural areas remain, as a majority have been disturbed or lost due to urbanization, farming, and the development of transportation infrastructure. In an effort to address increasing development pressures, the County seized an opportunity to direct its future growth and preserve its natural resources by adopting the 2030 Land Resource Management Plan. The vision addresses a number of controversial issues with equally complex solutions:
- Preserve prime agricultural land and protect it from incompatible development
- Preserve the County's natural resources
- Protect and expand open space to maintain the County's rural and natural character, and provide recreational opportunities
- Regulate new residential development to create high-quality sustainable, walkable communities, and reduce costs of providing public services (fire, police, school) and infrastructure
Over the course of three years, the County, Steering Committee and consultant worked together to foster a culture of environmental stewardship. The thorough process established a framework of objectives and policies for future land use and development to mitigate, if not eliminate, the negative impacts conventional development have on the existing ecosystems. Encouraged to participate, residents became invested in the Plan, leading to its successful passage and a collective commitment to its long term goals.
Preserving prime agricultural land and maintaining the County's character was identified as a top priority. As a result, the Plan's agricultural land use policy exerts significant influence over other land uses, in particular future residential development centered on balanced growth principles.
Strategies were developed to preserve the natural resources from large-scale effort, such as coordinated stormwater management techniques, to the encouragement of 'green' building and energy efficiency. The protection of natural resources will not only enhance the existing ecosystems, but also provide educational opportunities, recreational amenities, and generate long-term economic benefits. The comprehensive nature of the 2030 Plan addresses the full range of issues facing Winnebago County, including economic development, housing, transportation, and telecommunications, which collectively contribute to a holistic approach to growth and environmental stewardship.