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Article posted: 4/2/2013 6:21 PM

Wheeling candidates oppose gambling cafe proposal

By Deborah Donovan

In the latest squabble between Fresh Farms shopping center in Wheeling and its neighboring residents, candidates for village offices are siding with the neighbors.

At issue are Laredo Hospitality's plans for two cafes serving wine, beer and sandwiches while providing access to video gambling machines.

A similar operation called Stella's in the Wheeling Lynn Plaza sailed through the village approval process, but Maxine's, planned for a vacant store at 255 E. Dundee Road on the west end of Fresh Farms, has hit snags.

The restaurant would be within 100 feet of homes and close to Walt Whitman School, at 133 S. Wille Ave., opponents say.

Their objections include concerns about parking problems at the center, the selling of alcoholic beverages and the cafe's proposed operating hours of 7 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Resident Gerald Lindman told the village plan commission in January that he and his neighbors in the One Milwaukee Place Condominium Association specifically oppose gambling.

Christine Dologopol, of the 200 block of Center Street, also has been an outspoken critic of Fresh Farms.

"I understand retail and commercial is important, but that building (the center) is way too big and so close to the homes on Center Avenue," she said. "We don't need an establishment with open beer and open wine."

Laredo pulled the request for a special use permit off the Feb. 25 village board agenda and asked that it be sent back to the plan commission, which had voted 5-1 against the cafe. The commission probably will take up the question again late this month or in May, village planner Andrew Jennings said.

Candidates for village board say they oppose the proposed video gambling site a Fresh Farms.

"Kill it quickly, painlessly, mercifully," said village president candidate Pat Horcher.

Trustee Dean Argiris, who is running for village president in next week's election, also expressed misgivings about the cafe,

"If (the developer) doesn't address parking and hours when it comes back to the board, I will probably vote no," Argiris said. "I am sympathetic to the surrounding single-family homes."

Village President Judy Abruscato, who is seeking re-election, said Maxine's might be acceptable on the east side of the center.

"It just won't work there (on the west)," said Abruscato. "The parking is overwhelmed, and it's next to a neighborhood."

Incumbent Trustee Bill Hein agreed.

"I'm leaning toward probably voting no on it, only because it's very close to an old neighborhood, close to the school," Hein said. "They have limited food, they're there for the video gaming, and I don't think it's the place for it."

Trustee Ken Brady, also seeking re-election, and newcomer Greg Stavros, said they would likely oppose the proposal.

Board candidate Mary Krueger praised the neighbors for speaking out, but said Wheeling needs businesses, and the village board must follow state law.

"It's a tough call," she said. "Parking in that center is an issue. Who are they marketing to? My mother would have loved a place like that where she could have a panini and play a little and go home."

Trustee hopeful Mary Papantos spoke against the cafe at the plan commission's January hearing.

"I'm not totally against video gaming," Papantos said. "It's the location. And the residents don't want cars driving up and down their street at 2 a.m."

Center owner Paul Svigos said he's turned down tenants that he thinks would make heavier use of the parking than Maxine's.

Under state law, once a community votes to allow video gaming, any place granted a license to serve liquor for drinking on the premises can apply to the Illinois Gaming Board for a gambling license.

Maxine's customers will be at least 60 percent female between the ages of 40 and 75 years of age, Gary Leff, chief executive officer of Laredo, told the village. He said the company is constructing similar cafes in Hoffman Estates and Bartlett, both near grocery stores.

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