Naperville neighbors oppose added traffic from development
As he sat and counted cars at a corner near his house, Len Kowalski of Naperville said he wasn't surprised.
A busy intersection buzzed Monday morning at Washington Street and Gartner Road, a spot Kowalski and many of his neighbors fear could become busier with proposed development.
Tartan Realty Group is pitching plans for The Shoppes on Washington, a cluster of three buildings that could include stores, offices and a coffee shop with a drive-through lane on 3.5 acres.
Located just north of Gartner Road, set back only by a vacant former gas station lot under different ownership, the site is bordered on the north and west by the West Highlands subdivision and on the south by a strip mall called Naperville Plaza. It used to house a PNC Bank that since has been demolished.
Tartan Realty's plans would require a change in zoning from an office, commercial and institutional designation to a neighborhood convenience shopping center designation, along with several variances related to building size, parking setbacks, signage, traffic flow near the drive-through lane and the lack of a loading berth.
The city's planning and zoning commission unanimously approved the changes and now the project is set to be discussed by the city council during a meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the municipal center at 400 S. Eagle St.
Neighbors opposed to the Tartan Realty project have organized their thoughts on a website and Facebook page, both called Help Save The Highlands. Top concerns include "intensive business uses" such as fast-casual restaurants that could be allowed if the city approves developer's desired zoning.
"The renderings and architecture look great, but that's not the issue," Kowalski said. "The issue is traffic."
Washington and Gartner was the site of an average of 18 crashes each year during the past five years, according to the results of a Freedom of Information Act request completed for Naperville resident Marilyn Schweitzer.
Kowalski said he fears the Tartan Realty project could increase left turns from Gartner to Washington, as well as general northbound traffic on Washington, especially during the morning peak. He counted typically 45 to 55 northbound vehicles making it through each traffic signal Monday morning and eight to 12 turning left each signal, in what he admits is an unscientific study.
But a traffic study Tartan provided with its zoning application, completed by Eriksson Engineering Associates, Ltd., said the proposed development would not lengthen delays to pass through any of the affected intersections, including on Sycamore Drive north of the property.
The developer, in a letter sent to several neighbors, also has agreed to eliminate an entrance that had been on Catalpa Lane to the west of the property and to prohibit drive-through lanes with any restaurants or businesses other than the coffee shop.
Schweitzer said she still worries the site plan will affect traffic on Washington Street, especially if cars get backed up while customers try to access the coffee shop.
"It's just a very poor internal design for customers and businesses on this lot," Schweitzer said. "They're really constricted."
Neighbors on the Help Save the Highlands Facebook page also have discussed seeking better traffic controls, such as stop signs and crosswalks, from the city to improve conditions in the area.