O'Fallon Progress

Shiloh growth workshop garners ‘lots of good ideas’

“Do you have big dreams for your town? If you had a million dollars and could have whatever you want for the village, what would it be?” Mary Vandevord, president and CEO of Heartlands Conservancy, asked the crowd.

Vandevord was leading a “community growth visioning workshop” Tuesday, May 16 to update Shiloh’s Comprehensive . The public was held at the Shiloh Senior Center.

“We (Heartlands) are a non-profit organization working towards a better quality of life here in southern Illinois by protecting open space, and then, also helping communities with growth issues and other planning issues like comprehensive and strategic planning,” she said.

Tim Ashe, associate planner for Heartlands Conservancy, led a presentation and group exercises to obtain input from locals to learn what they visualize for Shiloh’s future.

As part of the workshop, attendees were asked to break into two groups to brainstorm ideas of the village’s assets, liabilities and future goals or dreams in order to ascertain “the big picture of what Shiloh could become.”

Workforce development, transportation, business, education, financial demographics, and bike and pedestrian trails are all elements being considered in the data analysis Heartlands Conservancy is compiling with its comprehensive plan update, along with consensus input from residents.

“Over the next 30 years, the number of individuals age 65 and over will increase from 13 percent of the population to 21 percent in 2040,” Ashe said. “The St. Louis region is aging faster than the nation as a whole.”

John Marquart, village administrator; Mark Herrmann and Bob Weilmuenster, village trustees; Robert J. Hilgenbrink, Shiloh resident and Heartlands Conservancy board of directors member; and Darris Gibbs, a Shiloh resident of 13 years were those in attendance.

“I heard about it through a neighbor of mine, and this is my first meeting. I thought, ‘Well, I’ve been a resident here for like 13 years, maybe I should come,” Gibbs said.

So he did, and he “thought it was very informative.”

“I think more people should be involved, and come in and put their input on the community and what they would like to see about the community — you know — and get to know some of your neighbors,” Gibbs said.

Recently elected to the Shiloh Board of Trustees, Herrmann said he was glad he attended but “hoped for a better turnout,” than just six people — all but two were village officials and staff.

“This was my first time attending something like this, so I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but it’s a good little exercise with lots of good ideas coming out of it. Now, we just have to see how it can be accomplished,” Herrmann said.

He was concerned about the lack of people because “it can be frustrating later when people later come to the meetings and say, ‘Well we weren’t (involved).”

“I think everyone, pretty much, is looking in the same direction,” Herrmann said. “You know, everybody likes the green spaces, parks, community activities. So it seems like everybody’s on the same page. We need to go to get retail or the commercial side to get more money in the town,” Herrmann said.

Hilgenbrink said he participated, not as a board member for Heartlands Conservancy, but rather “as a Shiloh resident and interested member of the community in how to create a pleasant place to live and work.” He hopes more people had taken advantage of the opportunity in the future.

“There are a lot of competing events this time of year. Hopefully, there will be some additional opportunities for outreach to occur to get a good cross section of public input as to strengths to build on and shortcomings to address,” Hilgenbrink said. “I’m pleased that Shiloh is taking steps to develop such plans and seek community involvement. I think it was a positive meeting and attendees believe Shiloh is on the right path.”

Seven years ago, the village board held a similar workshop, but one that was limited to board members for strategic planning during a half-day retreat at Rock Springs Park in O’Fallon.

“It was very similar to this one with some of the same ideas and main goals,” Weilmuenster said.

Need for update

January 2008 was the last recorded update to the plan, Ashe said.

“The comprehensive plan sets the general policy for the community as a whole, so it’s almost like branding in a way — a vision for the community,” said Vandevord, the Heartlands CEO. “It also sets the stage for your zoning ordinance, so you have to have it for legal reasons, especially if you’re wanting to change them. Anymore, nowadays with the state of Illinois, if you’re looking to change zoning in the future, now you gotta have all kinds of other hearings, cause you’re changing somebody’s property— or (there’s) the possibility that you’re thinking of changing somebody’s property.”

Marquart, the village administrator, noted that maintaining regular updates every few years to a comprehensive plan is imperative if Shiloh wants to stay in the running for future grant and funding vehicles for projects and expanding community services.

“When I’m applying for grants, there is usually areas specifying community input and a comprehensive plan,” he said.

Ashe echoed the significance of a plan with grant funding.

“If you don’t have a good comprehensive plan, you may not be as eligible as others,” Ashe said.

“Strategic planning is different than this, but kinda of the same,” Marquart said, “in that a comprehensive plan sets the global tone for what the village is going to do: Where are we going to go? How do we want to get there? What are the big issues? And then, within the comprehensive plan, is an economic development plan or transportation plan or a strategic plan that focuses in on broader issues of what comes up in a strategic plan.”

Pros & Cons, Wants & Needs

Vadevord had attendees identify what they felt are some assets and liabilities of the village.

Attendees identified some liabilities like taxes, debt, traffic, lack of utilities, school system funding, lack of library, lack of varied financing pool and multiple zip codes.

Assets included open space in parks, fund balance, variety of housing options, new hospital, options for medical service, variety of retail amenities and close proximity to diverse shopping opportunities and highway interchange.

Attendees were given three red stickers to chose their top three most important goals.

There was a tie for four needs and dreams attendees put to paper:

▪ Police station and village hall

▪ Children’s hospital/medical destination

▪ Community recreation destination with youth center/pool/amphitheater

▪ Traditional downtown area/center

Close runner up, was expansion of all infrastructure to allow for future development of parks, trails, retail, business and residential.

“Everyone loves parks and trails, so implementing more infrastructure could help pave the way,” Marquart said.

Gibbs said he’d like to see some sort of community recreation center with a youth-oriented component, a place for youth to safely and productively congregate and interact close to home.

“Besides going to the parks and playing basketball and tennis and things like that, I believe the children, the youth, need more things to do to keep them near the community and not go outside the community,” Gibbs said.

Next step

Along with the detailed analysis and data collected about the current demographics and economic climate of the village, Heartlands Conservancy will compile the information gathered during the workshop for the Shiloh Board of Trustees to review and discuss further.

Vandevord said she also told Marquart at the close of the workshop that she and her staff may send out fliers or questionnaires to send to Shiloh residents to garner additional feedback.

“This is our public outreach. We will draft the plan up and bring it back to the public, down the road, as we make it through the plan,” Ashe said.

Then, the plan will be presented to the Shiloh Planning Commission, as well as to the Shiloh Board of Trustees for final review, amendments if needed; and, adoption thereafter, Ashe noted.

Robyn L. Kirsch: 618-239-2690, @BND_RobynKirsch