Glen Ellyn neighbors prevail in lawsuit against Five Corners gas station

Updated 3/15/2019 6:12 PM
  • A group of Glen Ellyn residents has won a lawsuit to stop construction of a gas station at the village's northern gateway.

    A group of Glen Ellyn residents has won a lawsuit to stop construction of a gas station at the village's northern gateway. Courtesy of the village of Glen Ellyn

Glen Ellyn neighbors have won a lawsuit against the village to block the construction of a gas station at the Five Corners intersection.

In a six-page ruling Friday, DuPage County Judge Bonnie Wheaton handed a defeat to the village after a nearly two-year legal battle, barring it from enforcing ordinances that authorized the redevelopment of the dormant site into a True North Energy gas station and convenience store.

Wheaton ruled that the approval of a special-use permit and other ordinances for the project was "arbitrary" and "capricious."

The village issued a statement Friday afternoon, saying officials "are considering all options for moving forward." Trustees also will hold a special executive session Monday night to discuss the ruling and next steps.

"While the village respects the decision of the trial judge in this case, we do not agree with it and believe that the village board made its decision to grant a special use permit for the development of a convenience store and gas station while acting in the best interest of the village as a whole," the statement read.

Attorneys for a group of more than a dozen neighbors maintained the village issued the permit with "complete disregard" for its comprehensive plan and zoning code. Two years ago, neighbors also formed a nonprofit group to "protect the health, safety and economic well-being of residents."

Protect Glen Ellyn President Megan Clifford said the group looks forward to working with the new board -- three seats are up for election April 2 -- to "find an appropriate use for this property."

"This case called into question the decision-making and priorities of our elected leaders," Clifford said in a statement. "We are thrilled with the outcome of the case and hope it reminds our village leaders and staff to abide by their own zoning law, make decisions based on facts, and listen to the residents they serve. "

Developers sought to build the 12-pump station 300 feet from Forest Glen Ellyn School on three parcels of property the village purchased in 2010 from a bankruptcy estate at the southeast corner of the intersection of Main Street, Geneva Road and St. Charles Road.

Wheaton rebuked the village for what she described as a lack of evidence about the effects of the gas station on nearby property values and the 600 students who attend Forest Glen. Attorneys for residents noted traffic consultants hired by developers failed to include the intersection of Main and Elm streets near Forest Glen in their study.

"Surely the health and safety of 600 children is worthy of at least cursory consideration by the village board," Wheaton wrote. "The testimony as to the need for the subject use, the promotion of public health, safety and welfare and the relative gain to the public was largely self-serving and cursory at best."

The village paid $590,000 in September 2010 to buy the property where a smaller gas station had closed in 2003. To spark redevelopment, the village demolished the former Marathon station.

In 2012 and 2014, the village put out a request for proposals from developers.

Then in June 2015, the village rejected a "perfectly good offer" of $500,000 from Glen Ellyn Swimming LLC, which wanted to build a swim school on the property, according to documents filed by attorneys for the neighbors.

In August 2015, True North made the exact same $500,000 offer to buy the property and construct a gas station.

Village Planning and Development Director Staci Springer testified during trial that the village rejected the swim school offer due to "limitations placed on the property by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency," according to Wheaton's ruling. But a memo she co-authored stated that the swim school "did not meet the village board's vision for a strong retail use at the site and was rejected."

Attorneys for the village and developers argued the legal fight was a "classic "NIMBY case" and pointed to Springer's testimony that the gas station would provide an "attractive gateway," sales tax revenues, convenience and "enhanced" landscaping and buffering. Developers also made more than 30 revisions to their plans to address neighbor concerns, concessions that drove up the cost of the project from roughly $3 million to $3.8 million, according to closing arguments.

"The only tangible gain to the public from the proposed gas station is the sales tax money that would come into the village coffers," Wheaton ruled. "However, since there was no testimony as to the impact of the additional 782 trips per day to the station on the students at the neighboring Forest Glen Elementary school, it is impossible to balance the overall gain to the public from the approximately $140,000 per year in increased tax revenue from the proposed use."

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