Council talks strategic plan, Attracting outside business part of long-term goals

By Lindsey Salvatelli

DeKALB — Short- and long-term goals for DeKalb’s 2025 Strategic Plan were addressed during a Monday special meeting of the Committee of the Whole.

The City Council developed a plan during a Jan. 24 goal setting session where the council members identified 10 areas of interest: economic/business development, residential growth, transportation, airport, government operations, budget/finance/fiscal planning, capital planning, public safety, community special events and attractions and Northern Illinois University.

Projects were placed into a “short-term” list, which had a fulfillment date of 12 to 18 months, or “long-term,” which went beyond that time frame.

Council members voted on which item they feel should be further discussed within each of the 10 focus areas and were able to agree which items to address going forward.

Of the focus from economic and business development, attracting outside businesses to the area and becoming a city that has businessfriendly municipal codes was identified as a top priority.

Many votes were placed in the government operations long-term goals that focused on living within the city’s means and reducing staffing spending costs, which was placed in the budget/finance/fiscal planning category.

“Basically it says we’re going to pay in the city of DeKalb what is realistic not only for this region but for municipalities this size, etc.,” Smith said.

Fourth Ward Alderperson Patrick Fagan said having operating costs within the city’s means would also serve to improve some of the cost efficiency with government operations.

“I’m seeing one help the other in this,” Fagan said.

First Ward Alderperson David Jacobson said the city’s strict regulations on building development serves as an impediment to drawing in outside businesses. He said while other cities have relaxed their codes, the demands made by the city for aged buildings isn’t worth outside businesses’ time and effort.

“If we had someone willing to come to DeKalb right now and bring us their business idea, bring us their entrepreneurship, bring us our tax revenue; we need it,” Jacobson. “We should be trying to find a way to work with them, not the other way around.”

He said the same could be said about project developers who are interested in the city until they realize the city has many hurdles, including a year wait time to appear before the City Council.

“That’s not reasonable, that’s not acceptable,” Jacobson said. “Those people can go to other municipalities and have it down within 60 to 75 days. Why would they waste their time with DeKalb?”

One of the suggestions made to residential development was issuing 10 home building permits that exceed $200,000 and an additional 20 homes. Mayor Jerry Smith said adding the 10 homes costing over $200,000 would serve as a perception change the city needs to appeal to potential new residents.

Council members voted in favor of developing an out-of-the-box strategy to reconcile its residential development.

Jacobson said adding 10 homes to the area is a short-term goal but pales in comparison to the thousands of new residents the city needs. He said the city needs focus on its natural resources to attract new residents the same way Sycamore has done with a city of 15,000. He said the area outside of the downtown area should be used to bring in new residents.

“We need to figure out how to start using their benefits and amenities to our advantage at this point, so we’re doing it together, and we’re growing together.”