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Cook County Board of Review Decision for the Chicago Bear’s Former Arlington International Racecourse Expected to Occur by End of February, 2024

The Cook County Board of Review heard a property tax appeal involving the Chicago Bears’ former Arlington International Racecourse this Tuesday, February 6, 2024.  Cook County Commissioner Samantha Steele was reported to state that a decision on this appeal will issue by the end of this February.  Their decision will have an effect on whether the Chicago Bears continue their process of redeveloping the former Arlington International Racecourse into a large multi-billion multi-purpose stadium district with restaurants, commercial retail stores, residential real estate and more.

The Chicago Bears bought and closed on this Arlington Park site for $197.2 million last February.  The Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi valued this land at about $197 million to match the sale price as their 2022 triennial assessment.  The former owner of the property, Churchill Downs was liable for the 2022 tax bill which was payable in 2023.  Churchill Downs filed a tax appeal and a settlement was reached to reduce the property’s 2022 assessment to $95 million in large part because of the subject’s vacancy.  This substantial assessment reduction reduced the subject property’s tax bill from $16.2 million to about $7.8 million.

For the 2023 assessment year, Cook County Assessor again raised the subject’s property value to $192 million.  The Chicago Bears have secured two appraisals as of January 1, 2023 for this site at $60 million and the other for $71 million.  Three surrounding school districts have intervened in the Chicago Bears’ 2023 Cook County Board of Review tax appeal and submitted an appraisal of the subject property valued at $160 million.  Cook County Commissioner Larry Rogers has publicly stated that Cook County Assessor Kaegi has used the valuation method of sales chasing which has been struck down by courts such as the Illinois Supreme Court in Walsh v. Property Tax Appeal Board, 181 Ill.2d 228 (Ill. 1998)

Another Commissioner Samantha Steele countered by stating that there are other factors, such as personal property and assets, that determine purchase prices which appraisers and the board of review has to consider in their decision valuing this property.

The Chicago Bears’ attorney criticized the evidentiary weight that should be afforded to the Intervenor’s Appraisal at $160 million because it considers data centers and warehouse/distribution centers as possible uses even though Charles Witherington-Perkins, Arlington Heights’ director of planning and community development  wrote in an email on July 25, 2023 to the three school districts who are intervening in this 2023 Board of Review Complaint that those uses were prohibited by the village’s zoning code and are not consistent with the village’s current thinking for a special and unique regionally or nationally significant development to the replace the Arlington International Racecourse and its 326 acre site.

The Cook County Board of Review’s decision in its 2023 Cook County Board of Review real estate tax appeal centering on the valuation as of January 1, 2023 of the demolished and vacant former Arlington Park racecourse site will be a key factor in whether the Chicago Bears’ ownership continues their process to redevelop this site into a multi-purpose football stadium complex which could someday host the Bears and maybe the Super Bowl and a Final Four.