Glen Ellyn neighbors sue village, developers over gas station project

Glen Ellyn neighbors have filed a lawsuit against the village and developers to try to block construction of a gas station near their homes.

The legal fight comes after months of emotional debate, several protests and marathon public hearings on the project that calls for building a gas station and convenience store at Main Street and St. Charles Road, a high-profile gateway into the village.

Attorney Daniel Shapiro filed the complaint Monday in DuPage County court on behalf of Protect Glen Ellyn Inc., a nonprofit formed to "protect the health, safety and economic well-being of residents" and to advocate for "responsible development," according to the suit.

"We are in this for the long haul," said Megan Clifford, the president of the group that she says is representing the "sentiments of hundreds of residents."

Shortly before three new trustees took their seats earlier this month, the former village board moved to finalize the sale of the village-owned land to True North Energy, an Ohio-based company that builds and operates gas stations. Trustees also agreed to limit the hours of the station - True North initially wanted to operate round-the-clock - but the restrictions failed to appease neighbors.

The lawsuit asks a judge to reverse the village's special-use permit for the project and to stop Glen Ellyn from granting any building permits. The complaint also wants a judge to rule that the group's due process rights were violated.

"We think we've followed the law of the state of Illinois and the village of Glen Ellyn," Village Attorney Greg Mathews said.

The development has been the subject of more than a dozen village meetings and hours of public comment. That input from neighbors and village staffers led developers to make more than 30 revisions to their proposal since early 2016, resulting in an improved project, village officials say.

The village can file its own motion in response to the lawsuit within a month.

In the 23-page lawsuit, neighbors argue that the development would violate village zoning rules "intended to protect the health, safety and well-being of its residents." The complaint claims neighbors will be "deprived of the quiet use and enjoyment of their properties" and "be exposed to hazardous elements such as noise, odor, fumes and vibrations."

Critics contend the size of the development is more fitting for Roosevelt Road or North Avenue and would alter the historic character of an intersection that includes commercial businesses and Stacy's Tavern Museum. As many as 12 vehicles could fuel up under the station's canopy.

The complaint also claims that True North's application for a special-use permit was "dated, inaccurate or unreliable."

A traffic study, for instance, was completed in January 2016, when "counts tend to be lowest due to periods of inclement weather," the complaint states. That analysis also did not address the impact of traffic on Forest Glen Elementary School less than 350 feet from the site.

"It's really about the opportunity to question and make sure that the due diligence has been performed around this development," said Clifford, who lives on Forest Avenue near the site. "And that is a major concern of ours that the village board members who had voted 'yes' made a serious decision for this community without performing the necessary due diligence."

The village paid $590,000 in September 2010 to buy the property where a smaller gas station with four pumps had become an eyesore. To spark redevelopment, the village demolished the former Marathon station and completed environmental remediation of the contaminated soil.

In 2012, the village put out a request for proposals from developers and received just two. One was not feasible, and the other called for a gas station, which later fell through, village planners say.

About two years later, no one responded to the village's second formal request for proposals. The village board hired real estate firm DK Mallon in August 2014 to market the property.

True North made an offer in August 2015. About a year ago, the board agreed to enter into the contract to sell the land to the company for $630,000.

True North has indicated that the business could generate an estimated $140,000 in annual sales taxes.

A status hearing on the lawsuit before DuPage Judge Bonnie Wheaton is set for Sept. 18.

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