Editorial: Village Leaders, Consider Practical Impact of Dense Housing at Hickory-Kensington, Not Just Assessment Valuation Hopes

Building multi-story residences has brought positive results for Arlington Heights for years. Building up on a limited land parcel brings increased property tax opportunities. It’s been a favorite for village planners and trustees, and it is apparently easier than attracting new businesses into Arlington Heights. However with limited available property in the Village of Arlington Heights and traffic congestion, there is a delicate balance involved in gaining property tax income and choking off a community and permanently destroying opportunities for light industry and other commercial opportunities. The Hickory-Kensington proposal is a typical old successful strategy with a net negative that doesn’t work in 2014 for several reasons.

The equalized assessed valuation of the area was $15.2 million in 2007, but has fallen to $9.6 million in 2012. Village leaders and planners hope numbers could be improved to $30 million to $40 million. However, observations of reality over the past few years in a sluggish economy don’t necessarily promise an influx of sold condos and new businesses.

While new assessed valuation hopes for $40 million for the area would be a great plus, what are the risks, and what is the real impact on the neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods?

Cramming high-density population into a small area places the neighborhood into critical overload with traffic congestion and a lowered quality of life for area neighbors.

The developers have promoted a pedestrian-friendly development, but Chicagoland weather provides only about six months of the year (at most) that are conducive to pedestrian traffic. While planners might imagine a local utopia with new condo residents walking and enjoying new neighborhood local businesses, the reality is hundreds of new residents will be unleashed in their vehicles (shopping, driving children to school, etc.) in an area that is already on the verge of choked off traffic. Many of the new residents will be using cars, not their feet.

Mariano’s, especially near holidays, has so much traffic that police are needed to keep the traffic flow going. Imagine these traffic conditions — and worse conditions — existing every day during business hours.

The angled intersection and position of Kensington Road as a traffic dump into Northwest Highway will become a choking point in the neighborhood. The alternative westbound route will be Miner Street. Imagine Frontier Days traffic year-round with heavy congestion along Miner Street. Next, consider the wait at the stoplight at Miner Street and Arlington Heights Road with westbound traffic backups to Douglas Avenue or maybe even all the way to Dryden.

Neighbors toward the east already have flooding issues. Water detention will be necessary as part of the Hickory-Kensington project, which could involve construction of an underground water vault under part of Recreation Park to prevent additional flooding.

The proposal involves eminent domain that displaces businesses and will force some businesses to close. While village leaders and planners might envision beautiful condos and pedestrian-friendly sidewalks with people shopping in a new Hickory-Kensington retail district, the reality might be slow real estate sales for the condos, and slow growth for new businesses.

The Arlington Crossings development northwest of Dryden and Kensington has seen very little growth since 2011 when the initial phase of the row home community was constructed. There is little promise that the housing environment would cause a boom in sales of new condos or townhomes.

Any new businesses that might pop up in the Hickory-Kensington district would likely hurt business in downtown Arlington Heights. Business isn’t exactly vibrant in downtown Arlington Heights. Just take a look at all the empty storefronts. The empty lot at the southwest corner of Dunton Avenue and Eastman Street, which was once planned for multi-story condos above retail, has sat vacant for years. The plan was abandoned. Much of the first floor commercial space across Dunton Avenue has also sat empty for years. A commercial lot on Miner Street between Dunton Avenue and Vail Avenue has also sat empty for years. Do we really believe that Hickory-Kensington will be a pedestrian-friendly downtown version 2? In the rare scenario that downtown version 2 is successful, are we prepared for the negative impact on the traditional downtown Arlington Heights?

Additionally, the existing businesses in downtown Arlington Heights do not need the competition from new businesses that essentially get a handout from the local government of Arlington Heights in the name of a Hickory-Kensington TIF. Could the Hickory-Kensington project cause more commercial vacancies in downtown Arlington Heights?

The existing Hickory Kensington district has the only significant railroad offload connection in Arlington Heights. The new proposal would eliminate the railroad tracks which provide a vital shipping option for freight, and potential future light industry or light commercial business in Arlington Heights. Why eliminate a potentially vital infrastructure asset?

Village leaders and planners should be thinking outside the condo box that has worked in the past. This area and the surrounding neighborhoods will not be served well by the extra congestion. Village planners should be concerned with developing news businesses that are consistent with the existing zoning.

A business such as an urban farming center that produces local, healthy, and sustainable food year-round might promote better use of the proposed district. Plus it could potentially co-op with Mariano’s and the plethora of grocers that exist in Arlington Heights. Instead of looking only at short term dollar solutions, that might not work anyway, Arlington Heights leaders should start looking at practical, local and global solutions with the remaining scarce available property that exists for development in Arlington Heights.

The Hickory-Kensington proposal would translate better geographically near the new Arlington One project near Arlington International racecourse, Salt Creek Lane and Euclid Avenue, where there is more vacant land and existing businesses would not have to be destroyed. Higher end retail stores could be attracted in the first floor commercial space that would have easy access with proximity to Route 53 without congesting streets in the center of Arlington Heights.

Local activists have set up a Facebook page and a website to oppose the “forced development” of the Hickory-Kensington District.

Please don’t allow the Village Planning Department to forcefully develop the Hickory/Kensington Area.

The establishment of a TIF District in the Hickory Kensington Area allows the Village to exercise eminent domain. This could forcefully displace businesses that have been in the area decades.

Worse yet, some of these businesses would be forced to close.
Millions of taxpayer dollars that could be used to fund schools, police and fire stations instead will be used entice developers to build in this area.

A spike in population could overcrowd our schools….which will not see the benefit of any increased tax revenue due to the TIF district.

A glut of homes in such a small area could lower the value of your home. The housing market is just starting to bounce back in this area. Your home values could plummet again.

We already have several empty commercial spaces in downtown Arlington Heights. The new TIF District would only exacerbate this problem. We will just have more empty stores!

Please do not allow the Village Planning Department to forcefully develop an area that would naturally develop on its own over time. Don’t let them use your hard earned dollars to do it!

We ask that you sign the petition to let your Village Trustees know that you are opposed to the proposed Hickory/Kensington TIF District.

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The Village of Arlington Heights is scheduled to revisit plans and a timeline for the proposed new tax increment financing district in the Hickory-Kensington area of town. The New Business “Hickory/Kensington TIF Redevelopment Plan – PC14-010” could involve a final vote on the project at the Village Board Meeting Monday night, July 7, 2014.

On the agenda for Monday night is a motion to recommend to the Village Board of Trustees approval of PC#14-010, the Hickory/Kensington TIF District Redevelopment Plan and Project and Ordinances establishing a Tax Increment Financing District.

The Hickory Kensington Area Plan, which was approved by the Village Board in January 2013, amended the Village’s Comprehensive Plan setting forth Goals and Objectives and specific Recommendations. Recommendation #7 is to evaluate the use of Tax Increment Financing to provide a mechanism to assist with redevelopment.

As outlined in the Redevelopment Plan and Project, the project area qualifies as a “conservation area” as more than 50% of the buildings are at least 35 years old and the area meets at least three of the qualifying criteria. It was found that 6 factors are present in the proposed TIF area those being: Lag in Equalized Assessed Valuation; Lack of Community Planning; Deleterious Land Use; Inadequate Utilities; Deterioration; and Obsolescence.

At least one planning commissioner believes the potential money return from the TIF district will provide funding for infrastructure and combined sewers that will benefit a wider area of residents of Arlington Heights.

SOURCE: Village of Arlington Heights (See additional graphics Hickory-Kensington TIF Village of Arlington Heights).

The proposed TIF District is defined by Dryden Avenue to the east, Northwest Highway to the south, Belmont Avenue to the west, and Miner Street to the north. The area considered for redevelopment is largely light industry and vacant, but many existing businesses would be affected by the re-development.

In May 2014 representatives of District 25, District 214 and other taxing bodies affected by the redevelopment area approved the plans to create a TIF district in the Hickory-Kensington District.

Redevelopment in recent years without a TIF has already occurred with the construction of Mariano’s at the former Lattoff Chevrolet building property, a Walgreens and the new Arlington Crossings townhouses.

There are 20 businesses in the core area that would be affected by redevelopment that would either close permanently or relocate.

Business that have vanished in the conceptual drawing are Heller Lumber and Beverly Lanes. The conceptual drawing also shows dense multi-story housing throughout much of the area.

If a TIF district is approved for the area, property tax disbursements to local governments from the properties in the TIF district would be frozen at current levels. Any revenue growth through the life of the TIF district would go to a special Village of Arlington Heights fund to pay for planning and construction of improvements within the TIF district.

On November 12, 2013 at the Committee-of-the-Whole Meeting Trustee Thomas Glasgow moved, that the Committee-of-the-Whole recommend to the Village Board approval of the execution of a contract with Kane McKenna and Associates, not to exceed $20,500 for Phase Two. Trustee Robin LaBedz seconded the motion. This Phase includes drafting the Redevelopment Plan and to commence the Public Hearing process for considering a TIF District for the Hickory Kensington area. The motion was passed unanimously by the Village Board — Mayor Thomas W. Hayes, and Trustees Carol J. Blackwood, Joseph C. Farwell, Thomas Glasgow, Bert Rosenberg, John Scaletta, Mike Sidor, Jim Tinaglia, and Robin LaBedz.

The initial proposal for the TIF District was at a Village Board Meeting on December 17, 2012, which was opposed by Scaleta, Blackwood, and Rosenberg; and approved by Glasgow, Hayes, Sidor, Breyer, Farwell, and Mulder (approved 6-3).

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