McDonald's is attempting to breathe new life into a proposal that would bring a sixth location to Naperville.
But local leaders say the fast-food giant's "back of the house dealings" just aren't the way to go about it.
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Some city council members are angry that McDonald's has taken to having private meetings with council members to address the concerns that led to a 9-0 rejection of plans to build the city's sixth McDonald's. The proposal needed multiple variances to zoning, landscaping and sign regulations when it was first introduced in June.
Developers had hoped to demolish the Citgo gas station at Hillside Road and Washington Street to construct a 3,599-square-foot McDonald's that would be open 24 hours.
But council members voted down the plan, saying the drive-through could pose a traffic and safety nightmare on Washington Street, and also could disrupt the nearby residential neighborhood.
The plans called for a right-in and right-out access on Washington, and the opportunity to turn left or right when exiting onto Hillside Road. The proposed parking lot would have had 31 spaces instead of the required 61; of those, 11 would have been for employee parking.
Councilman Robert Fieseler said Thursday he is "concerned that there is some back-of-the-house dealings having to do with McDonald's proposal" and said he thinks the entire plan should be re-vetted before the city's plan commission and city council.
"Essentially we're giving McDonald's the availability to avoid the plan commission and any further public scrutiny that may come from that. Instead, they are apparently presenting revised configurations and site plans that are getting traction with some councilmen," Fieseler said Thursday. "On Tuesday, this item will be on the consent agenda to grant another continuance which will, again, skirt the whole issue of there being a presentation before the plan commission."
Councilman Steve Chirico confirmed he recently met with McDonald's officials and was impressed enough with the new proposal, which he said includes solutions to manage traffic backups on Washington and the installation of a sound wall bordering the adjoining neighborhood, to now support the project.
"I don't think the process has been a problem because I've seen them work in good faith with residents and city and make every effort to accommodate our concerns," Chirico said. "They've done a really good job addressing every single one of my concerns and I'm ready to support this project."
Councilman Doug Krause also confirmed meeting with restaurant officials and said some of his concerns were addressed, but he believes the chain has "quite a laundry list of additional concerns to address" before he is willing to jump on board. He plans on visiting similarly designed sites this weekend in Berwyn, Forest Park and Morton Grove before making up his mind.
City Manager Doug Krieger said he understands the concerns some council members have with the process, but said it is a familiar one.
"The process we are following is the same one we have historically followed with new developments. If a development is going to require changes in order for it to be approved, sometimes those approvals and changes can be ironed out at a council meeting during the agenda item. Sometimes it requires more time or approval from a party who is not present," Krieger said. "In this case, I believe the developer's representative needs to take the feedback back from council members back to McDonald's to attempt to arrive at a development the city will find acceptable."
That's not good enough for Councilman Grant Wehrli, who has not met with the McDonald's officials.
"I'm somewhat apprehensive of the methodology they're using after receiving a 9-0 vote in opposition. Instead of going back to the plan commission, they have chosen to lobby the council, behind closed doors, until they get five hands in the air," Wehrli said. "I think that is disingenuous and takes the public completely out of the process, and that is wrong. When it's all said and done, they will get five hands and it will be a disservice to our residents."
Councilman Paul Hinterlong and Mayor George Pradel also met with the McDonald's representatives recently and approved of the process, though neither of them said their votes had been swayed by what they heard. Joe McElroy has not yet met with McDonald's but said he intends to.
Calls placed to and messages left for council members Judith Brodhead and Kenn Miller were not returned Thursday. McDonald's attorney Hank Stillwell also did not return a call seeking comment.
The revised plan is likely to be continued Tuesday and not taken up again publicly until Oct. 2.
Process: Councilman says company is 'disingenuous'