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posted: 6/20/2012 5:48 PM

Chick-fil-A proposal gets mixed review from Vernon Hills officials

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The arrival of a Chick-fil-A restaurant in a community may be exciting for customers but officials in Vernon Hills don't share quite the same enthusiasm for the Georgia-based chain.

A proposal to acquire and demolish an existing Pier 1 Imports store for what would be Lake County's first Chick-fil-A met mixed reviews from the village board, which heard the pitch Tuesday during an informal work session.

"I have not seen a welcoming quite that way," Chick-fil-A representative Jason Hill said after the meeting.

Some trustees had an issue with the layout of the proposed store at 701 N. Milwaukee Ave., which showed pedestrians having to cross two drive-through lanes to get to the entrance.

"I like the building, I like virtually everything I see with one major exception," said Trustee Thom Koch. "That just frightens me big time." Koch said he had heard a "lot of positive comments" from residents who would like to see the restaurant open in Vernon Hills.

Chick-fil-A, which opened its sixth Chicago-area restaurant in March in Lombard, has been looking for a location in Vernon Hills for more than three years.

"Admittedly, this is not our preferred layout," Hill told trustees. He said drive-through lanes at the Schaumburg store are delineated by signage and color concrete.

"In all honesty, this is nothing special to the village," Mayor Roger Byrne said. "It's a fast-food restaurant. We have plenty of them."

Trustee Cindy Hebda agreed.

"I'd rather see something else. It's not what I would envision there," she said.

Pier 1 remains open but its future status in the village is unknown, according to John Kalmar, assistant village manager.

Trustee Jim Schultz agreed it wasn't an ideal location for a fast food franchise but didn't have a problem with the idea.

Hill said the company will adjust the plan and return to discuss changes with trustees.

The chain operates 1,600 restaurants in 39 states and Washington D.C. Plans are to open 77 stand-alone and 15 licensee locations in 2012, according to the company website.

It is known for its chicken sandwich and trademark waffle fries and use of peanut oil in cooking. Openings draw a crowd for the "First 100" promotion that offers free weekly meals for a year.

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