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La Grange 2020 chair helped craft village’s last plan

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013 6:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013 8:38 a.m. CDT

LA GRANGE – As a principal planner for engineering firm HNTB, La Grange resident Diane Gormely-Barnes was part of the team that put together the village’s most recent comprehensive plan, which was adopted in 2005.

It’s a main reason Gormely-Barnes was tapped by new Village President Tom Livingston to chair the La Grange 2020 task force, a group of residents selected by Livingston who will meet for the first time tonight to tackle major issues facing the village.

The group of about 30 residents will meet monthly through May 2014, and will conclude by making a presentation to the Village Board.

“It’s been 10 years since a [comprehensive] plan was done,” Gormely-Barnes said. “It’s time to regroup and make sure … that the things we’re focusing on are really a community priority.”

As opposed to the consulting Gormely-Barnes and HNTB conducted for the village a decade ago, the task force could be a cheaper (members are volunteers) way for the village to obtain direction for future projects and development.

Gormely-Barnes noted that for several decades, the village had a TIF district in place that is no longer in effect.

“Their primary tool for effecting something in the village has expired,” she said.

Each meeting will focus on one topic, and discussion among the task force members will be preceded by a presentation from a village staff member or other person who is an expert on the given topic.

The topic for Wednesday’s meeting is economic development, and will begin with a presentation from Community Development Director Patrick Benjamin to kick things off.

Gormely-Barnes said her main task will be facilitating and guiding a conversation with 30-plus voices, something she has done during her career as an urban planner.

So that meetings don’t last through the night, Gormely-Barnes said she will also look for a way to solicit ideas and feedback from task force members outside of meetings. Members are also tasked with gauging the opinions of their neighbors and fellow residents.

The challenging part likely won’t be collecting enough ideas, but figuring out which ones to pursue and how to do it.

Gormely-Barnes said that one of the group’s final meetings will be with the village’s budget director.

“Finances are tight and [the Village Board] needs to be tight,” she said. “The board is looking for some feedback on what their priorities ought to be moving forward.”

Gormely-Barnes said any input from the group to the board, “has to be implementation oriented,” adding that, “a few really thought-out ideas are going to be a lot more helpful to them.”

The group won’t present the board with a litany of concerns, but rather a list of action-oriented suggestions, she said.

“It may result in the recommendation that they need some professional consulting assistance about something specific,” she said. “But they want it to be targeted.”

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