Glenview board of trustees denies rezoning request, site plan for Willows Creek

In its first full meeting together, Glenview's new board of trustees certainly had a prime topic before it.

In a 5-0 decision on Tuesday, returning village trustees Mary Cooper and Chuck Gitles, and recently installed trustees Gina DeBoni, Tim Doron and Adam Sidoti denied a rezoning request and final site plan review for the proposed Willows Crossing Shopping Center, 2660 Pfingsten Road.

Chicago-based GW Properties is seeking to build four retail buildings including a 35,000-square foot Amazon Fresh store on 6.03 acres of the property at the southwest corner of Willow and Pfingsten roads. The southern 2.35 acres of the former Hart Estate would be dedicated to water detention.

The developer sought a zoning change to B-1 limited business for the larger plot and R-4 residential for the smaller one, from the entire property's status as R-1 single-family residential.

The first two hours of Tuesday's meeting - led by new board President Mike Jenny, sworn in May 4 along with the new trustees - was largely a condensed version of the five Plan Commission meetings on Willows Crossing. The Plan Commission eventually voted 3-2 against recommending the proposal.

Attorney Hal Francke of Meltzer Purtill & Stelle represented GW Properties and principal Mitch Goltz - who under the name 2660 Pfingsten LLC purchased the property for $5.75 million in January 2020.

Francke described how the petitioner's team felt the plan satisfied the "LaSalle Standards" warranting a zoning change. As well, how the opposing Willow Pfingsten SW neighbor group as well as the Plan Commission's majority voters were faulty in their assessments.

Francke detailed how the current site plan improved upon one approved by the board on Jan. 7, 2020. At that time, the property, which had been under litigation since September 2019, was believed to be zoned B-1 and R-4. In November 2020 an appellate court panel determined that zoning had never been changed from R-1, and the Village of Glenview corrected the zoning map to return the property to R-1 zoning as it had been since its 1988 annexation.

After Francke's presentation came the retort. Carol Sullivan of Willow Pfingsten SW launched a shorter version of the "Analysis of a Zoning Request and an Irresponsible Plan" previously presented to the Plan Commission. Familiar actors such as resident Brett Hanley, who enjoined Sullivan's lawsuit, also made presentations.

During the public hearing to follow none of the 22 callers favored the project, echoing Plan Commission sessions.

"I've been in the shadows of this project for years now, and it has been years," said Mary Novotny, a 40-year Glenview resident formerly on the Zoning Board of Appeals, The Glen Redevelopment Commission and other civic bodies.

"The bottom line is, in my opinion, the petitioner has not met the qualifications for the standards for rezoning."

Residents' reasons for opposition are many: Light and noise pollution, proximity to neighbors, density. Amazon Fresh is more distribution center than grocery store; it'll provide little tax benefit and hurt property values, they say, and more.

But chiefly, safety and traffic issues near an intersection already deemed dangerous, a topic square in trustee Tim Doron's wheelhouse. Plan Commission chair from 1993-2001 among other positions, his expertise and professional experience is in urban mass transit, specifically traffic.

"Ginormous" is the amount traffic would increase under the plan, he said - around 500 trips an hour midday on Saturday or peak weekday hours. He found the lack of regional traffic analysis troubling. A sole full-access curb cut on Pfingsten "changed the whole ballgame," he said.

On that angle, given current peak-hour "stacking" of vehicles from the Willow-Pfingsten traffic light south to Miller Drive, Doron felt further backup would often make a left turn lane into the shopping center a moot point.

Trustees Gitles and Cooper both believed the site should be commercial, but had trouble with a dense site plan.

DeBoni touched on the LaSalle Factors and also circled back to traffic, including "the redistribution of traffic, and also the type of traffic" that could wind its way through neighborhoods to skirt the Willow-Pfingsten intersection or reach the Tri-State Tollway.

Sidoti concurred, stating traffic impact is key. He also brought up a line from the Village of Glenview Comprehensive Plan of 2017: "the understanding that residential zoning is 'compatible with and connected to The Willows neighborhood to the west.'"

The vote taken, Jenny issued the first major decision of his presidency: "The motion does not carry, and motion fails."

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