Arlington Heights board to vote Monday on 'road map' agreement for Bears development
There's a big vote taking place early next week -- one that could determine the course of history over the next several years.
Yes, the midterm elections are Tuesday. But about 24 hours before polls close here locally, Arlington Heights village board members will cast their votes on an agreement with the Chicago Bears that could pave the way to the NFL franchise's long-sought suburban relocation.
Nothing is final or official about the club's $5 billion conceptual redevelopment of the 326-acre Arlington Park property, village and team officials emphasize. But their nine-page predevelopment agreement, along with 34 pages of attached exhibits containing the master plan, puts into writing for the first time real possibilities about future zoning changes and public financing that could make that vision a reality.
Since a draft was unveiled in early October, officials have called the document a "road map" that defines how future plans and processes will be reviewed should the project move forward. The draft earned positive remarks from the mayor and village trustees during an initial public review last month.
"This agreement is about establishing and publicly stating intent, not creating irrevocable commitments," village officials wrote in the board packet memo for Monday's meeting that was released Friday morning. "Given the early stage of the project, (village) staff and the Chicago Bears believe it is too early to establish such commitments. However, we both agree that it is important that all stakeholders understand the intent and goals of the village and the Chicago Bears.
"The agreement acknowledges that the village will need much more information in order to weigh in on their proposal in a formal way, but that the village is willing to explore the general idea of an NFL stadium and mixed-use development on the site."
One key piece of the agreement spells out what Bears brass have said previously: that they will ask the village and other governmental entities to enter into a "public-private partnership" to fund a portion of infrastructure costs, but not the construction cost of the stadium itself.
That could include tax-increment financing steering property tax money from schools and other local governments into the project, special service areas in which property owners within the areas pay a special tax, special assessments, the creation of a business district with an extra sales tax in the redevelopment area, and a parking tax, according to the document.
Though village officials say they haven't agreed to any incentives -- nor have the Bears made any formal requests -- even the suggestion of tax help for the redevelopment has drawn criticism from opponents like Brian Costin, deputy state director of Americans for Prosperity Illinois.
"The village of Arlington Heights should be creating broad-based policies to ensure safe streets, good schools, and a healthy business environment for all," Costin wrote, in a preview of remarks he said he expects to deliver at the board meeting. "Instead, this predevelopment agreement shows the Chicago Bears and the village of Arlington Heights want to rig the rules of the economy and force poor and middle-class taxpayers to subsidize billionaires, while jeopardizing our children's education and the economic well-being of our local schools."
In a Q&A about the Arlington Park redevelopment posted to the village website earlier this week, village officials wrote it's likely that some public financial/infrastructure assistance will be requested for a project of this magnitude -- regardless of whether the Bears or another developer eventually purchases and develops the shuttered racetrack.
And, they added, such a request would be consistent with past types of public-private partnerships the village has had.
But officials said they will consider using project-generated revenues to support parts of the redevelopment only if they determine that the project won't be feasible otherwise. And, the project must generate enough new tax revenues to cover all village expenses and still provide a net financial benefit to the community above and beyond those costs, according to the Q&A.
The board Monday also will consider amending the Arlington Park overlay zoning district that would list a sports wagering facility as a possible use. The amendment doesn't constitute the formal approval of a sportsbook, but it would allow such a facility to be considered by the board in the future as a special use in the zoning code.
The meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday at village hall, 33 S. Arlington Heights Road. It also will be livestreamed at vah.com.