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Wilmette Case

Essay by   •  December 13, 2013  •  Essay  •  1,954 Words (8 Pages)  •  1,113 Views

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Wilmette

Wilmette, IL is located in the North Shore suburbs of Chicago just north of Evanston. Wilmette is a relatively small and humble town with a population of 27,087 (Wilmette.com). Wilmette represents the ideal suburban town: a small downtown with local stores and restaurants, mostly single-family housing units, great elementary schools, a clean and family-orientated beach just minutes away, very little crime, and a close-knit community. Wilmette is a very Caucasian town with an average income is $120,000-$200,000 (aboutwilmette.com). Wilmette has a great location right along Lake Michigan and has a public beach called Gilson Park. Wilmette is also just a twenty-minute drive away from downtown Chicago. The high quality of education available from living in Wilmette is a main reason why families flock to the town. Wilmette is in the district of the highly acclaimed New Trier High School, which is ranked one of the top schools in the state of Illinois.

Wilmette is known as a very well-off community that provides mostly high income single-family housing which is the cause of one of Wilmette's key local issue of not having enough affordable housing for the elderly and low-middle income families. On the shore there are a few apartments which offers some housing for lower income earners, however the location of the apartments are right by the lake and next to a plaza which skyrockets the property value. Old brick houses built in the early 1900's are prominent in the community as well as some houses designed by the famous architect Frank Llyod Wright. Neighborhoods usually have tree-lined streets, a park within walking distance, sometimes a brick road, and very light traffic (thelakotagroup.com). Overall Wilmette has light traffic except for Lake Street, which was recently reduced to a one-lane road going west in an effort to prevent cars from taking that road, however it has done just the opposite, and now Lake Street is the most congested road in Wilmette, which have left residents angry. Wilmette has been featured in multiple movies such as Home Alone, Uncle Buck and Ordinary People due to its picturesque environment. The iconic house in Home Alone stands as a landmark in the north shore suburbs of Chicago. Though movies are often times unrealistic, the idyllic town featured in such movies does in fact exist. Wilmette has very few chain restaurants due to the town encouraging local restaurants to remain in business and maintain a sense of uniqueness. For residents who enjoy fast food, it is a burden to commute to another town in order to get their fast food.

The town's Village Center Master Plan includes basic goals most cities and towns strive for, such as economic growth, traffic efficiency, abundant parking, and affordable housing (thelacotagroup.com). A common problem with the plan is trying to meet its goals by adhering to the restrictions that only suburban towns have. For example the plan explains its goals for economic growth by encouraging more "commercial, retail, and service/office facilities", however Wilmette only permits a few fast food chain restaurants that are considered healthier than restaurants like McDonald's or Taco Bell. Having unhealthy big chain restaurants in Wilmette defies the town's principle of having "quality retail and restaurant establishments while maintaining its traditional hometown character and pedestrian scale" (thelacotagroup.com) However by preventing fast food restaurants from entering the town, Wilmette is possibly passing on a large economic growth opportunity.

The Comprehensive Plan conveys Wilmette as a town that wants stay true to its original layout and principles. Basically, Wilmette does not want to radically change as a town, but instead preserve the qualities of the town that were created a long time ago. "Preservation" is word used multiple times in the plan regarding the preservation of the abundant amount of trees, the small town atmosphere, and especially historical buildings such as Wilmette Historical Museum and the Baha'i House of Worship, which exemplify the significance of culture, social, and architectural history. The plan states "The Village's basic pattern of land use is already in place. Efforts to change the existing pattern are likely to involve adaptations..."(Wilmette Comprehensive Plan). Wilmette is a very dense town and does not have many open spaces for new developments and the town wants to put changes of what is already set in place to a minimum so petitions for various types of zoning are relatively on a small scale. Regarding commercial areas, the plan emphasizes the importance of "attractive" commercial areas. As well as keeping the building in good condition attractiveness includes having a design that is "consistent with the character of the surrounding area" (Wilmette Comprehensive Plan). Wilmette's downtown buildings are older looking, so a proposal for a modern Apple store in the middle of downtown would be immediately turned down in order to comply with the goal to keep the appearance of all buildings consistent.

Like the Village Center Master Plan, the Comprehensive Plan mentions the importance of availability of affordable housing to the elderly and low and moderate income households by making multiple-family developments. Wilmette's housing remains predominantly having detached single-family residences so continuing affordable housing is an issue. There is a large gap of income between these two types of housing. Most detached single-family residents are categorized in the upper-middle to upper class, unlike the lower-income families (Wilmette Comprehensive Plan). Wilmette makes it possible for lower-income families and senior citizens to have residency in Wilmette through a 32-year-old program called Housing Assistance Program (HAP) (Routliffe). In 2013 HAP provided financial support for rent assistance, mortgage support, and property taxes, by giving $1,800-$2,950 to 24 people who are in the program. Unfortunately funding this program has recently become problematic for the village staff and trustees of Wilmette. Originally the village funded the plan completely by the village revenue, but in 2010 funding was decreased by $20,000 due to a tight budget.

In order to make up the rest of money, the village drew from an affordable housing escrow account. The creators of the former National Louis University are currently funding this escrow account, however only $49,000 remains and by the 2015 fiscal year the money will be gone. After contemplating a wide range of solutions, Assistant Village Manager Michael Braiman along with the town's committee concluded to eliminate funding for rent in the upcoming months, transfer people in mortgage support to property tax support. Funding for HAP

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