No adult businesses, car washes: Panel recommends rules for Arlington Park redevelopment

  • A proposed overlay zoning district for the 326-acre Arlington Park site would expressly prohibit certain uses, like currency exchanges and warehouses. But it would preserve the possibility of horse racing or a potential Bears stadium.

    A proposed overlay zoning district for the 326-acre Arlington Park site would expressly prohibit certain uses, like currency exchanges and warehouses. But it would preserve the possibility of horse racing or a potential Bears stadium. Courtesy of Village of Arlington Heights

 
 
Updated 6/10/2021 3:48 PM
Due to technical issues, an archived story about the potential redevlopment of Arlington Park ran in print and online editions of the Daily Herald on Thursday. This is the correct story.

Arlington Heights plan commissioners unanimously endorsed an overlay zone late Wednesday that will govern the potential redevelopment of the 326-acre Arlington Park racecourse, including the types of uses that will be prohibited.

The commission's 7-0 recommendation of the plan now goes to the village board, which has final say. A date for the board's vote has not yet been scheduled.

 

The 23-item list of prohibited uses for the property includes adult businesses, car washes, currency exchanges, kiddie parks, funeral parlors and warehouses.

One notable potential use not on the prohibited list, however, is a sports stadium.

Rumors that the Chicago Bears could relocate to Arlington Park were resurrected when a team spokesman would not deny the possibility exists after track owner Churchill Downs Inc. listed the property for sale in February.

And Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes has said a Bears stadium and the preservation of live horse racing are both on the table.

Arlington Heights Plan Commissioner Terry Ennes said last month that all indications point to Churchill Downs selling to a non-racing entity, as company executives hope to relocate their Arlington racing license elsewhere in Illinois.

There is a deadline of next Tuesday for developers to submit proposals to Churchill Downs.

Bill Enright, assistant director of Arlington Heights' planning and community development department, said the proposed overlay zone addresses the fact that the underlying business zoning classification for the racetrack site isn't conducive to a future mixed-use redevelopment.

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He added that the proposed overlay would encourage higher-density, mixed-use development within walking distance of the existing Metra station -- known in planning and development circles as a transit-oriented development. The zoning language would also require sustainable development features, such as bicycle access, and that natural site features like Salt Creek be incorporated into redevelopment plans.

The recommendation to the village board also includes new rules that would prevent piecemeal subdivision of the site, which officials fear would result in a more haphazard redevelopment.

The proposed zoning changes wouldn't prevent horse racing from continuing under new owners. In fact, the village board in May approved a measure blocking Churchill Downs from placing restrictive covenants on the land -- including any banning gambling -- as part of a sale.

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