Plant trees and shrubs, or be cited, Arlington Heights tells business owner
Arlington Heights officials will require a contractor that bought the former Elk Grove Township building to beautify the property at the southern gateway to town or be cited by the village.
The move comes amid a four-year zoning dispute between the village and the owner of Paragon Mechanical at 2400 S. Arlington Heights Road.
The beautification plan calls for installation of a landscape bed at the site's southeast corner featuring a mix of ornamental grasses, deciduous and evergreen shrubs, and one tree.
In exchange, village trustees this week agreed to grant the HVAC business a land-use variation in perpetuity, even though village code defines Paragon as a contractor shop, which isn't allowed under the property's B-2 general business district zoning.
The company purchased the 2.4-acre former township property in a public bid process in 2018, and owner Kevin Polka and village officials have had a tense back-and-forth over zoning and site upkeep ever since.
Polka said the village's landscape requirements are too costly, and questioned whether his asphalt removal and landscape contractors could get the work done by a village-imposed May 31, 2024, deadline. He is on board with other village asks: teardown of the township's old Safety Town; removal of pavement; the addition of landscape islands in other areas; and a change to one-way site circulation.
Polka said the upgrades would cost at least $100,000.
Meanwhile, his vision for a new three-story building, patio, gazebo and solar panels presented to village staff in 2020 would cost even more.
"It's a huge project. You could say you want it and I could say I want it, too, but it has to get funded," Polka told trustees Monday. "It was a vision."
Trustee Tom Schwingbeck said he doesn't believe Polka would follow through with the short-term landscaping plan, let alone the long-term project. Schwingbeck was the lone board member to vote "no" on the contractor shop variation and landscape plan.
"You've got a piece of property here at the gateway of our village," Schwingbeck said. "I look at this no different than a piece of property in somebody's neighborhood. You want neighbors that are going to keep their property looking nice and reflect the other homes in the neighborhood. And when you've got a house in the neighborhood that's fallen apart and dilapidated ... it reflects on every other homeowner in the area."
Trustees agreed to give Polka leeway in meeting the landscaping deadline, allowing Village Manager Randy Recklaus to extend the date.
But Recklaus said Polka would have to have a written explanation, and the business could be subject to citations and fines, if the trees and shrubs aren't in place.