Starting in May, will combine its Plan Commission and Zoning Board into one advisory board.
The merger, which was approved by the Village Board March 26, has been talked about dating back to 2009, but didn’t gain traction until late last year, according to Lake Bluff Village Administrator Drew Irvin.
“A lot of communities have been consolidating these two areas,” Irvin said, naming Grayslake, Libertyville, Long Grove and Naperville among others.
The merger will mean reducing two advisory boards with a combined 13 members to one board of seven members called the Plan Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals.
Some members have already indicated they will step down, including Kurt Haller, chair of the Plan Commission, who recently started a new job, and Plan Commission board member Brad Andersen, who cited a conflict of interest. Joan Kaltsas, currently chair of the Zoning Board, will chair the newly created board.
“We’ve given every member the option to stay in,” Irvin said.
In 2009, Irvin said the initial conversation was held with both boards over the lack of projects due to a struggling economy that did not warrant staffing two separate advisory boards. In 2010 the number of projects continued to be slow, and Irvin said resident input during the 2016 strategic planning meetings indicated Lake Bluff needed to be more business friendly and streamline its business development process.
The final piece came during the Village’s Waukegan Road Study in 2011 in which property owners were interviewed.
“The common thread was that our developmental approval process was onerous,” Irvin said. “We needed to merge the two boards to streamline the process, and the (lack of) volume issue was still there. So by doing this, we are trying to be responsive to our business community.”
Kaltsas, who has been a member of the Zoning Board since 1999, believes the merger will work itself out.
“I think the members of the Plan Commission who stay on will work well with the Zoning Board members,” Kaltsas said. “We’ll be a blended family for awhile.”
Andersen said that although the initial discussions in 2009 still noted the two boards performed different functions – Zoning Board on individual projects and the Plan Commission on long-term projects – that over time a bigger picture emerged of the village’s economic health.
“For the long term health of the village, it’s a good idea,” Andersen said. “This will make the village more attractive to businesses, and for a developer it will move the process along. The new board will do an excellent job.”
Kaltsas said though the boards have operated separately for years, their common bond will help them move forward under the new alignment.
“We all have the same interests in mind of what is in the best interests of the village,” she said. “We’re just going to go about it differently.”