Developers drop Glen Ellyn gas station project after neighbors win legal fight
Developers on the losing end of a two-year legal fight over a Glen Ellyn gas station have decided to walk away from the project.
DuPage County Judge Bonnie Wheaton ruled last Friday in favor of neighbors who filed a lawsuit against the village and True North Energy to prevent construction of a gas station and a convenience store at the Five Corners intersection.
Nearly a week later, village officials announced Thursday that they will not challenge the judge's ruling even though they disagree with it.
"After analyzing legal and practical facets relating to an appeal of this case, True North has decided not to proceed with their $3.8 million investment," the village's statement read. "Given that the developer is no longer willing to pursue their project, the village will take no further action to overturn the court's decision."
Developers secured a village special-use permit to build the 12-pump station 300 feet from Forest Glen Elementary School on three parcels 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.
In her ruling, 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 the neighbors 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."
Wheaton also noted that the proposed use of the property is allowed under the village's zoning classification for the long-dormant site.
"It may well be that a future village board, after receiving appropriate evidence and testimony, will decide that a gas station and convenience store meets all the LaSalle factors," wrote Wheaton, referring to criteria that municipalities "must take into consideration in granting or rejecting a proposed special use."
Officials have maintained the village board approved the permit authorizing the development "while acting in the best interest of the village as a whole." But Wheaton ruled the approvals were "arbitrary" and "capricious."
The village paid $590,000 in September 2010 to buy the property where a smaller, dilapidated gas station had closed in 2003. To spark redevelopment, the village demolished the former 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 representing neighbors.
In August 2015, True North made the exact same $500,000 offer.
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 the swim school "did not meet the village board's vision for a strong retail use at the site and was rejected."
"The village marketed the property for many years and only received viable concepts from convenience store/gas station developers, which the village board believed created the greatest public benefit in terms of private investment, further site clean up, and revenue generation," the village's statement read Thursday.
In January 2018, the board authorized Village Manager Mark Franz to prepare a letter to True North reflecting an agreement to refund the purchase price of $630,000 if neighbors prevailed.
By agreement, the village will have to buy the property back at approximately $630,000, Franz said in a follow-up email Thursday.