Despite outcry, Glen Ellyn gas station plans advance

Updated 4/26/2017 10:01 AM
  • Operators of a proposed gas station, shown in this rendering, must close the business from midnight until 5 a.m., Glen Ellyn officials say. But neighbors insist the project doesn't belong at the corner of Main Street and St. Charles Road.

    Operators of a proposed gas station, shown in this rendering, must close the business from midnight until 5 a.m., Glen Ellyn officials say. But neighbors insist the project doesn't belong at the corner of Main Street and St. Charles Road. Courtesy of the village of Glen Ellyn

Glen Ellyn trustees early Tuesday agreed to limit the hours of a proposed gas station, but the restrictions failed to appease angry neighbors who chastised the board for approving the project.

When it became clear the board would support the plans, some neighbors walked out of the meeting in disgust. Earlier, dozens of opponents protested outside the downtown Civic Center and filled an overflow room where they watched -- and cheered -- a video of the marathon proceedings while village officials tried to maintain decorum.

Just before 2 a.m., trustees approved exterior designs and granted some exemptions to village code on the condition that operators shut down the station and its convenience store from at least midnight to 5 a.m. daily.

Trustee Mark Senak abstained. He refused to make a decision on "incomplete" data and called for an expanded traffic study.

The project has been the subject of 10 village meetings and an online petition with more than 1,000 signatures. Though no proponents addressed the board, trustees say they have heard privately from residents who want to fuel up at the site at Main Street and St. Charles Road, the village's northern gateway.

Trustee Pete Ladesic, who grew up on nearby Elm Street, said he hopes the project will foster further redevelopment at one of three business districts in the village. He also noted the acrimony surrounding the plans.

"(In) my 10 years as a trustee, I've never seen the type of intimidation and threats and behavior that I've seen from any opposition group, even including opposition groups that had larger numbers than yours in various development projects over the years," he told the audience. "I hope to never see that again. I think that sets a very bad representation to our children."

The village paid $590,000 to buy the property in September 2010. Officials tried to spark redevelopment of the site by demolishing the former Marathon gas station and completing environmental remediation of the soil.

In February 2016, the board agreed to enter into a contract to sell the land to Ohio-based True North Energy for $630,000.

"Market dictates what will go there, and the market is still dictating today six years later, going on seven, that a gas station will work in that corner," said Trustee Diane McGinley, who will be sworn in as village president May 8.

McGinley and other trustees say plans have improved significantly because of input from neighbors.

Developers made more than 30 modifications to the proposal since early 2016. True North also agreed to provide six neighboring homeowners with up to $750 each in landscaping of their choice to be planted on their residential properties.

Ryan Howard, the company's chief operations officer, said developers should be "afforded the opportunity" to match hours with those of competitors such as the 7-Eleven store, open round-the-clock at Main and Elm streets.

"We have worked tirelessly to satisfy the group of people opposed to this project," Howard said. "It is obvious to us they simply disagree with the approved use and accordingly are using every tactic possible to stop the project, including the threat of lawsuits against the village."

Outgoing Village President Alex Demos said he was uncomfortable with 24/7 operations and urged the board to consider restrictions. Trustees also will require developers to grant a to-be-determined access easement allowing the village to install additional landscaping.

But neighbors maintained the station is too large and belongs on North Avenue or Roosevelt Road.

"How do you expect there will be a different result when three gas stations in the past have failed at this location?" asked Karyn Campbell, who lives on the south side of the village.

The PTA of Forest Glen Ellyn Elementary -- less than 500 feet from the site -- also voted to oppose the project, citing traffic and environmental concerns. Gas pumps would accommodate 12 vehicles.

"Who is representing the taxpaying residents?" asked Diana Martinez, whose home on Elm Street is just south of the site. "This project is grossly over-designed for a residential area."

Developers have not indicated when they would start construction.

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