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Article updated: 10/9/2013 10:33 AM

Zoning board sticks with support of Glen Ellyn gas station

By Joshua Welge

Both sides of the argument heard, the fate of a proposed gas station in an unincorporated area near Glen Ellyn is headed back to the DuPage County development committee.

By a 6-1 vote Tuesday, the county's zoning board of appeals moved to send the matter back to the development committee with no additional findings. That committee, which next meets on Tuesday, will issue its recommendation to the county board, which is ultimately charged with granting approval or denial.

The only no vote was cast by Zoning Board Chairman Robert Kartholl, and only because "I think we should make some limited findings based on what we heard" in a recent environmental hearing.

"I'm not going to try to clarify further," Kartholl said. "The motion carries with six in favor and one in technical opposition."

The zoning board first voted in July to recommend approval of a conditional use for the proposed 1.5-acre Mobil gas station and Bucky's convenience store development at the northeast corner of Route 53 and Butterfield Road. In August the development committee postponed its vote on the request so concerns about air pollutants could be voiced.

Over two hours of testimony on behalf of the Butterfield Park District, which opposes the gas station, and Buchanan Energy was heard earlier this month.

"We're like the trial court and (the development committee) is more like the appellate court," said zoning board member Thomas Laz. "My understanding would be that we fulfilled our function by providing a forum."

In purchasing the vacant lot, Buchanan Energy has proposed a gas station with 10 gas pumps, a 6,800-foot convenience store and a 2,200-square-foot car wash. Opponents have claimed the proposed gas station is a health concern for nearby residents and children using the adjacent recreational space on Butterfield Road. Since the gas station was proposed, more than 1,200 nearby residents have signed a petition opposing the project.

Experts for Butterfield argued at the recent hearing that exposure to the carcinogen benzene found in gasoline can increase the risk of cancer. A chemical engineer for Buchanan countered that there is no environmental impact thanks to tougher emission controls and better gas station technology.

"Both sides addressed the issue of (benzene) with their expert witnesses at length," zoning board member Michael Loftus said. "There is no disagreement that there is always going to be some benzene present at gas stations. As far as whether it is at a dangerous level, there is conflicting testimony. I leave that to the reading of the development committee."

The proposed development was previously home to a smaller Shell station torn down 15 years ago. A new one was proposed and granted approval in 2000 but that project never got off the ground. The lot since has remained vacant although two other gas stations are already present at the intersection.

"Gas stations generally are heavily regulated," Kartholl said, "and there was nothing presented by either the petitioner or the park district that would suggest that there is anything unique about the operation of this proposed gas station at this site which would exceed the regulatory standards."

Support: Development committee will issue recommendation Tuesday

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