What's best for downtown Arlington Heights? Candidates discuss balancing residents' concerns
Hopefuls discuss balancing residents' concerns
The face of downtown Arlington Heights has changed from a few mom-and-pop shops along the train tracks into the dining and entertainment destination it is today.
And with remaining vacant land in the area, more changes may be afoot, if current and future development proposals earn village board approval.
The five candidates seeking four spots on the elected panel in the April 2 municipal election agree they like what downtown has become, but they want to see it continue to improve. During a recent interview with the Daily Herald Editorial Board, they also outlined their approaches to analyzing development proposals and how they'd collect resident feedback before voting.
Incumbent Trustee Robin LaBedz, appointed in 2013 and elected in 2015, said some decisions have kept her up at night, such as her votes in 2017 and 2018 against a 5-story apartment building project on Sigwalt Street between Highland and Chestnut avenues. She said it wasn't "quite the right building at the right place."
"I think to myself had I been in a decision-making position back when the whole downtown redevelopment happened, what would I have done? I hope I would've had the courage to say yes," said LaBedz, adding she tries to balance constituencies and collect information before making a decision.
Fellow incumbent John Scaletta, on the board since 2007, said he's satisfied with the viability of the downtown but is not pleased that some development opportunities have been "at a standstill." He added board members should be clear with the village staff and developers about what projects the board is and isn't willing to support.
He also said it's important to listen to residents -- as long as information they present to trustees is factual.
"It does not give me any great joy to vote against the residents that might be in the room, but I think it's really important that you listen to exactly what they're saying," Scaletta said.
Tom Schwingbeck, a four-year zoning board of appeals member making his second run for the village board, wants to see areas in the downtown developed while also committing to collecting residents' feedback.
"As a village trustee, you have to listen, take neighbors' and community voices into consideration, look at all the information and do what's best for not only our residents but also our town," Schwingbeck said. "I think it's extremely important to do what's best for the village of Arlington Heights as a whole."
Laurie Taylor, president of the Northgate Civic Association, said she favors development on all sides of town to build up the village's "economic backbone." Bringing in businesses will mean more tax revenue for the village and lower taxes for residents, she said.
To improve communication efforts, she's proposed inviting leaders of community associations/subdivisions to regularly speak to village officials.
Mary Beth Canty, a management consultant, suggests village trustees host monthly coffee sessions to get resident feedback in an informal setting. One idea to improve the downtown, she said, is to encourage businesses to stay open past 6 p.m.
She says she's specifically worked on change management issues in her day job. "You need to understand the change you are making for people and how it will impact them in their day-to-day," Canty said.