Legislation was filed in Springfield on Monday that freezes property tax assessments on the former property of Arlington International Racecourse for up to 40 years, which could help the Chicago Bears finance their proposed development in Arlington Heights Will go

The plan, which would require investing at least $500 million to convert the 326-acre site into a stadium and surrounding mixed-use development, has been floated for weeks and is being met with some skepticism. Even the state legislator who filed the law.

State Sen. Ann Gillespie said Monday, “I have expressed skepticism about whether this is an approach … We really want to open the door.”

The Arlington Heights Democrat said she is sponsoring the proposal in part because she wants to see the concept, which she said mirrors an offer from Bear and other business interests, known as a form of tax assistance for development. Separately it has been included in the wider conversation about reform. as tax increase financing. TIF is an often used economic development tool, which he says often leads homeowners and small businesses to pay higher real estate taxes.

“If we’re going to do this, we need to do it in a way that protects residential taxpayers and small business taxpayers from paying a disproportionate share of the load,” Gillespie said.

Sen. Ann Gillespie, shown in 2020, says she's sponsoring the proposal in part because she'd like to see the concept included in a broader conversation about reforming a different form of tax support for growth called tax increases. Also known as financing.

The measure, filed on Monday, could be used for other mega projects as well, allowing companies such as Beers to negotiate annual payments to local tax bodies on top of property tax payments based on static valuations. May need it. According to proponents, the idea is to create an incentive for major growth that would not happen without aid.

The Bears declined to comment, and the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, which has been a vocal supporter of such a proposal, did not respond to a request for comment.

The legislation has yet to be assigned to a committee for consideration, and it could face pushback from Chicago lawmakers who don’t want to make it easier for the NFL’s charter franchises to leave their namesake city.

Sen. Robert Peters, a Chicago Democrat whose district includes Soldier Field, said he needed to review Gillespie’s latest proposal, but expressed dismay at how the whole situation has been handled by Bear.

Peters said, “I guess what I would say to the bears is they should have first talked to people and different stakeholders before they decided to make a bunch of threats about leaving town.” “This whole, long drawn out process is going that way because the bears themselves have worked backwards on this. And he’s on them.

JB Pritzker, a spokesman for the government who previously said he does not support providing state aid for a new Bears stadium in the suburbs, did not respond to a request for comment on the latest proposal on Monday.

One of Pritzker’s recent economic development priorities was the creation of a special fund to help close deals with businesses considering locating in Illinois. But the legislation creating the fund, which he signed into law Friday, explicitly bans its use to provide incentives to pro sports teams relocating within the state.

Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes said village officials were still trying to fully understand the proposal filed by Gillespie on Monday, but he welcomed the concept to make the Bears’ move more economically viable.

A commuter passes the former Arlington International Racecourse as he leaves the Arlington Park Metra train station in Arlington Heights in 2021.

“What’s interesting about this proposed legislation is that it applies to other megaprojects that could be beneficial to the state,” Hayes said. “So we’re anxiously awaiting the state’s response to this to determine where things go from here.”

Local school officials are concerned That law could limit their property tax revenue, even though they are potentially gaining more students as a result of the new housing on the Bears site.

The mayor said that village officials have already spoken to school officials to address their concerns. “It is going to be beneficial in the long run for all tax bodies – at least that is our hope,” he said.

Arlington Heights Village Manager Randy Rekloss said it was unclear “what the bill would be in its final form.”

“But no matter who buys Arlington Park, we are looking closely to see if there are any new tools created for municipalities like ours that deal with these types of projects,” he said.

The Bears agreed to buy the former horse track in September 2021 for $197 million, but the team has yet to close the deal. Team president George McCaskey previously said that while the racetrack property remains the team’s “sole focus”, officials are still trying to determine whether they can close the deal in the first quarter of this year.

New Bears President and CEO Kevin Warren, who in a previous job oversaw construction of a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings, said it was important that “we’re systematic, we’re detailed and we’re going to plan it right.” Let’s take our time.”

In Arlington Heights, the Bears have proposed building a new enclosed stadium as part of a $5 billion worth of apartments, condominiums, bars, restaurants and parks, but team officials say they cannot do so without government subsidies of infrastructure. Will not move forward with development. Cost.

The Chicago Tribune’s Jeremy Gorner contributed from Springfield. Pioneer Press reporter Carolyn Kubzansky also contributed.

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