A tale of two counties

Boone County, Ill., might offer insight into controlling urban sprawl in Boone County, Mo.
Friday, October 3, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:08 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 15, 2008

If groups such as the Citizens for Rural Conservation had their way, Boone County, Mo., would have more in common with Boone County, Ill. than just a name.

At a Thursdsay meeting addressing concerns about urban sprawl, David Sliktas, a former planner with Boone County, Ill. outlined a process his county used that helped preserve 60 percent of farmland in his community. Area citizens hope Boone County, Mo., will follow in its footsteps.

Mary Lottus, a member of Citizens for Rural Conservation, attended the meeting to learn about the procedure that helped monitor urban sprawl in the Northern Illinios county, hoping that it could be applied on this side of the Mississippi River.

"If we could just get people together for a couple days to begin developing a land-use plan," Lottus said.

Tom Bernon, a member of the Boone County Smart Growth Coalition, said he was impressed by the level of cooperation Sliktas fostered between the county and city governments, though he believes that the governments of Boone County, Mo., may not have the same incentive to cooperate.

"I think people here don't feel as threatened," Bernon said. "We don't have a city like Chicago in the area."

Sliktas said his plan brought together government groups, conservation groups, and active community members to solicit input about conservation. Then, city and county planning commissions formed a more complete course of action that would effectively address these needs.

"We're feeling heavily the influence of Chicago," Sliktas said. The county seat, Belvidere, is 72.8 miles away from Chicago. "We wanted to maintain the beauty of our county."

Although Boone County, Ill., has a population roughly one third the size of its Missouri counterpart, Lottus and Bernon both said they can learn from Sliktas' strategy.

Sliktas focused on the problem of residential development by limiting where a developer can build, while minimizing developer's complaints. He said developers can increase the housing density in some circumstances to compensate for lost land.

"The plan is very tied into the commitment that after development reached certain lines, the County Board would not approve of growth beyond those boundaries," he said.

According to the 2000 census, Boone County, Mo.'s population grew by 20.5 percent to 135,454 in 2000, compared with 112,379 in 1990.

Bernon and Lottus said Boone County, Mo., could expand upon previous projects to begin conserving open space.

"We did at a one time ask a variety of organizations, such as the Sierra Club and the Department of Natural Resources, what areas they thought were important to conserve," Bernon said. "We came up with 14 or 15 areas, such as the Pinnacles area and the area bewtween Rock Bridge State Park and Three Creeks (Conservation Area)."

Ken Eftink, city administrator for Ashland, was the only government official present. He said Ashland is working on adopting regulations to monitor residential growth.

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