Courier-News: Elgin hosts symposium on building ‘green’

ELGIN — Past and present municipal leaders were in town Friday joined by engineers, planners, developers and concerned citizens to discuss ways of incorporating “greener” practices within their communities.

The Centre of Elgin played host to the second annual Sustainable Cities Symposium, It was a daylong series of workshops where more than 200 participants heard from experts who spoke of how important it is for communities to do more to reduce their impact upon the environment.

“We have to understand that we all have to work together on this mission,” said Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, who gave the symposium’s keynote address. “We all have a duty to be good stewards of our Earth and deal with the issues of global warming and climate change.

“But also I think it has a great opportunity of creating new jobs — jobs that don’t leave
our state that are right here in our own backyard.”

Other featured speakers throughout the morning included Fred Schnook, the former mayor of Ashland, Wis.; Christopher Miller, architecture professor at Judson University in Elgin; and former Milwaukee mayor John Norquist, who urged city planners to map out streets that would reduce people’s dependence on cars.

“People say that Americans have a love affair with the automobile,” he said, showing a picture of what he described as a typical street in Illinois — a two-lane road with no sidewalks and with a pedestrian walking on its shoulder.

“The love affair is really something that’s more like a shotgun marriage,” Nordquist said.

“And we really need to give people choices, respect their intelligence and let them have the chance to decide what kind of street they want to be on.”

‘Dangerous’ suburbs Miller, who spoke on the need for communities to properly use land space, criticized the recent trend in residential development throughout the area for contributing to the problems most cities face.

“The suburbs are more dangerous now, we’ve learned, to live in than the inner cities,” he said. “For one reason, because our sprawled subdivisions are not walkable, and it leads to our condition of obesity.”

“What we’ve been building is not sustainable,” Miller said.

Elgin Mayor Ed Schock, who was among the symposium’s attendees, said the comments fell in line with his efforts to increase density within certain neighborhoods.

“Density and transportation are the two biggest issues with which we have to wrestle and come to consensus,” he said. “Density in and of itself isn’t bad. It’s like anything else — it’s the quality of the design, and the quality of the product.”

City Councilman Dave Kaptain, one of the event’s organizers, said he also agreed with much of what was said during the day.

But as one of two council members to vote against development of the former site of the Channing YMCA into the new Channing Square subdivision, he said residents must have more of a say in determining what is built in their neighborhoods.

“We need from our community to tell developers this is how we want to grow,” he said.

“We don’t want you to just come in and build what you want; we want you to build what
we want.

“I think that is really important for the future of our city,” Kaptain said.




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