The Palatine village council this week gave the owners of a strip mall on Palatine Road permission to turn land intended to serve as a buffer between the stores and the adjacent neighborhood into a parking lot, despite the protests of some residents.
Representatives from Inverness Cleaners Plaza strip mall, which includes Inverness Cleaners and Tailors and four other stores on the 700 block of West Palatine Road, told the council they need the additional parking to satisfy customer demand.
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In 2005, the council rejected a plan that would have allowed the plaza to build more stores on the grassy lot, which sits on the east side of the center. At the time, the council said the lot "should remain as single-family residential, and that commercial uses should not extend into this property."
Gary Miller, who has lived on nearby Walnut Street for more than 30 years, implored the council to stop the plaza's expansion as previous councils had done.
"This is our residential neighborhood and we do not need or want the pollution associated with a parking lot on the corner of Palatine and Walnut," Miller said, reading from a prepared letter that had been signed by 20 residents. "This may not be your backyard, but this is definitely our backyard."
According to the meeting documents, Edward and Lynn Min, the owners of the center, gathered 482 signatures in support of the expansion.
Lynn Min addressed the council, saying she was not the kind of person who would do anything to hurt the neighborhood that she used to live in.
"Honestly, if I think I'm doing a bad thing for the neighborhood, I wouldn't do it," she said. "I strongly believe I am doing the right thing."
Min added that she would do anything to help the neighbors feel better about the project, including concerns about the noise, light and pollution the lot may cause.
Tim Neade, who lives on Walnut Street, said that no amount of landscaping around the proposed parking lot would be better than what's there now.
"That buffer there is the best thing we have for our neighborhood," Neade said. "You promised us there would be no more encroachment; that's encroachment."
The council voted 6-1 in favor of the expansion. The lone dissenter was Councilman Scott Lamerand, who represents the district in which the strip mall is located.