A proposal to build a gas station and convenience store on this site at Main Street and St. Charles Road in Glen Ellyn has drawn criticism from nearby residents who are concerned about the impact on traffic and surrounding properties. The village board will vote on the proposal Monday.
(Bob Goldsborough / Chicago Tribune)
After a nearly seven-hour Glen Ellyn Village Board meeting, trustees early Tuesday voted 5-0 to approve variations that will pave the way for a controversial gas station and convenience store in the village’s Five Corners business district.
Dozens of residents spoke against the plan during the meeting, citing the size of the project and its proximity to a school and residential neighborhood. Opponents held an hourlong demonstration in front of the Civic Center before the meeting.
At issue was gas station developer True North Energy LLC’s plan for the long-vacant lot at 825 N. Main St. Glen Ellyn officials bought the property in 2010 for $590,000 and razed a former Marathon gas station building. Village officials then began an environmental remediation of the property and marketed the site for commercial developers.
After more than five years, the only buyer to materialize was True North Energy, which proposed a much larger gas station for the site. Village officials last year signed a contract to sell the property for $630,000 to True North.
Many neighbors of the site joined forces to urge trustees to reject the plan, contending that the much larger gas station would hurt both Forest Glen Elementary School across the street and adjoining homes — which up to now have enjoyed a relatively large buffer of trees on the site’s eastern and southern sides.
"There just isn’t a case that can be made for this gas station — not based on need, not based on economic impact and not in the face of the overwhelming negatives," neighbor David Hartsell told trustees. "This has to be the biggest bait-and-switch in the history of Glen Ellyn.
"Seven years ago you told us that you wanted to spend our money, our taxpayer money, to buy this property and clean it up and get rid of that dilapidated gas station so that we could control the development here and execute on that development consistent with our comprehensive plan. And what have you brought us? Another gas station, three times the size."
Sarah Tuscher, who co-chairs Forest Glen’s PTA, noted the gas station’s proximity to the school would increase pupils’ cancer risk from exposure to benzene. She urged trustees to restrict the development so underground tanks would not be filled during school hours.
"I don’t know how the school is not the No. 1 priority," said another neighbor, Jessica Commo. "(The proposed gas station) is way too close to our school. It’s terrible. It shouldn’t happen. We do not want this bright, toxic, noisy business this close to a quiet neighborhood. Please do not do this to our community."
Trustees told the audience that through the past few months of hearings before several village panels and the Village Board, they felt that the plan had been improved. And Trustee Diane McGinley told residents that "the market dictates what will go there, and the market is still dictating that a gas station will go on that corner."
Trustee Tim O’Shea said he was looking at the big picture.
"I know it’s not ideal," he said, "but we have to go for the greater good of the village. We can’t just look at a small section of the town."
Several neighbors told trustees that they questioned projections that the gas station will generate more than $140,000 a year in tax revenue. And they added that they have yet to run across a resident who supports the gas station at that location.
"Where are those mythical people that are in favor of this gas station?" asked Bill Morgan, a neighbor. "Why aren’t you listening to an overwhelming unanimous voice in your community?"
Trustee Pete Ladesic said that in his 10 years on the Village Board, "the No. 1 business request I’ve heard in 10 years I’ve been a trustee is to get a gas station at Five Corners."
One trustee, Mark Senak, abstained from the vote, stating that he still did not have sufficient information.
Trustees imposed several new restrictions, including limiting the gas station’s hours and adding more landscaping. The original proposal was for a 24-hour operation. Now, the 4,200-square-foot facility will close at midnight and reopen at 5 a.m.
After the meeting, which concluded at 1:50 a.m., gas station opponents noted that more than 1,000 people had signed petitions objecting to the plan.
"(Trustees) keep telling us that people want the station. So where were they?" asked Mark Simon, a neighbor. "Why didn’t one member of the community show up to lobby for it? And I’m disappointed there wasn’t more deliberation on our children’s safety and compromised home values. I love my town, but over 1,000 signed petitioners do not believe the village is representing them, which is a very uncomfortable feeling."
Another neighbor, Diana Martinez, said she was pleased that the 12-pump gas station will close by midnight and that village officials committed to additional landscaping. However, she was disappointed other concessions, such as reducing the number of pumps, did not materialize.
The gas station is "over-designed," she said.
Bob Goldsborough is a freelance reporter.