Rare downzoning in Arlington Heights aimed at preserving century-old homes

Owners of a group of century-old homes just north of downtown Arlington Heights convinced the village board Monday to downzone their properties in an effort to prevent future high-density redevelopment there.

It's the first downzoning in Arlington Heights in some 25 years, and rare that all residents in the neighborhood were on board, village officials say.

Members of the Historic Arlington Neighborhood Association say the zoning change - approved 6-0 by the board Monday night - preserves the historic nature and integrity of the neighborhood, where they've spent years rehabbing and restoring their single-family homes.

"We don't have a historic preservation district in the village, but we essentially have created this de facto one," said Tom Gaynor, the association's board president. "This neighborhood has decided it's worthy of preserving and that the investments that the homeowners are making to maintain the historic integrity of the neighborhood is something that the village should really celebrate. It really makes this a special neighborhood."

The new zoning in effect restricts developers from assembling properties for apartment or condominium projects. Building heights are now limited to 25 feet instead of 50 feet.

The zoning change - technically, from Arlington Heights' R-6 multiple-family dwelling district to R-3 one-family dwelling district - covers five houses on St. James Street, one on Fremont Street and one on Chestnut Avenue.

An eighth lot, on the northeast corner of Chestnut and St. James, is a duplex, and remains under multifamily zoning. But trustees approved a variation for its 0.35-acre size, since a one-acre minimum is required by code.

The board also amended the village comprehensive plan to change six properties from a single-family attached classification - which generally correlates to townhouses - to single-family detached.

All land within 330 feet of the downtown zoning district was converted to multifamily residential in 1965. It was seen as a moderate-density "step down" transition from what was being built in the downtown, and homes in the vicinity.

But rezoning the far southern portion of the historic neighborhood - in total, 625 houses that go as far north as Oakton Street - fits the historic preservation policy of the comprehensive plan, village officials agreed.

Trustee Jim Tinaglia, who lives in the neighborhood, abstained from the vote, and Trustee Robin LaBedz, who lives next to the downzoned area, was absent from the meeting.

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