20 For 20 Retrospective

Rt. 47 Kishwaukee River Corridor Plan

GIS mapping of natural features and proposed development 


In 2002, McHenry was the fastest-growing county in Illinois. Like many outlying regions of the Chicago area, the 8-mile Route 47 corridor from Huntley to Woodstock was faced with development pressure, and was on the path to propagate as conventional urban sprawl with the accompanying environmental and quality-of-life impacts that result with single-purpose, low-density land use. This corridor was also situated at the headwaters of the Kishwaukee River, one of only a few "Class A" streams in the state.
The project was funded by a special grant sponsored by the Federal Highway Program known as the Transportation Community, and System Preservation Pilot Grant Program (TCSP). After securing the grant, Conservation Design Forum partnered with Conservation Land Stewardship and Openlands to pursue a plan which presented ecologically and economically superior alternatives to sprawl on behalf of the affected communities. The study demonstrated that properly planned, compact, walkable, conservation-based development could provide for economic growth clear of the typical negative impacts associated with uncontrolled growth.  
Subtitled Room for Growth, Room for Open Space: Planning for a Sustainable Future, the primary goal of the plan was to bring together local jurisdictions, state agencies, and the general public in order to vision alternative development scenarios and associated policies that would avoid negative impact on the “unique aquatic resource” that is the Kishwaukee River, as well as other natural areas, while maintaining critical transportation functionality.  
CDF led a number of workshops and planning meetings with various stakeholders to identify the key indicators of quality-of-life germane to the area. Participants also worked together to characterize the broad spectrum of adverse social, environmental, transportation, economic and health impacts which would result from sprawl-type development.  


Using field-verified GIS mapping, CDF completed a natural features inventory across the 53 square-mile project area to identify natural systems and habitats. Mapping the anticipated change in land use from agriculture and open space to residential subdivisions and commercial strips, CDF was able to project the potential impact such development would have on the prioritized list of key indicators.


With evidence pointing to severe impact impact on the key indicators, CDF developed alternative land use and transportation plans that allowed for an equal number of new homes, businesses and associated infrastructure that would materialize as sustainable, walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods concentrated in Conservation Villages. CDF's study also modeled the potential impact that these alternative scenarios might have on the same key indicators. The evidence revealed that the implementation of the conservation-based scenario would actually be restorative to the ecology of the watershed, maintain the required level of service on the roadway network, and accommodate the factors supporting desired economic growth within the corridor.
The findings of the study forged a greater sense of unity among stakeholders and prompted the elected leadership of all five participating municipalities to sign a resolution in support of the plan and the recommendations it contained.
Following completion of the Route 47/Kishwaukee River Corridor Plan, CDF utilized additional grant funding to develop a series of model codes and ordinances that reflect the conservation goals and objectives for the corridor. The ordinances are designed to ensure that development and transportation systems minimize the impacts on natural systems and encourage ecologically sensitive investment opportunities.

Model Codes:
Conservation Design Ordinance
Landscape Ordinance
Significant Natural Resource Overlay District
Open Burning Ordinance
Planned Unit Development Ordinance  
Subdivision Ordinance Recommended Language
Transportation Best Practices Strategy
Zoning Ordinance Language  


Size: 53 square miles
Program: Conservation-based land use and transportation study for multi-jurisdictional growth and expansion plan
Completion: 2002
Study Budget: $310,000, all phases
Recognition: IL-ASLA Honor Award, 2003; features in the Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald and Sun Publications
Municipal Participants: Villages of Woodstock, Lake in the Hills, and Lakewood; McHenry County; McHenry County Conservation District
Project Team: Conservation Design Forum – lead consultant, ecological planning
Conservation Research Institute- project administration
Openlands- planning, stakeholder coordination
Todd Fagen (formerly of Land Strategies)- Transportation


Planning Abstract on the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration website: 



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