In the end, all seven plan commissioners came to the same conclusion regarding a proposed gas station at Route 30/Joliet Road and Route 59, voting to recommend denial of a developer’s rezoning and special use request.
“I can’t support the filling station or the drive-through,” Chairman James Sobkoviak said of the proposal, which calls for a BP station, eight fuel pumps, a 3,600-square-foot convenience store and a drive-thru such as a Dunkin’ Donuts or a Subway restaurant.
The project received pushback from some residents, who were opposed to a new gas station occupying the former site of the Go-Tane station. That station was demolished to make way for the Route 59 widening project.
Back when the Go-Tane was built, Sobkoviak said, "There wasn't one-tenth the traffic there is today."
The vote came despite concessions made by developer G.C. Real Estate, which agreed to address safety concerns by eliminating a proposed full-access entrance on Route 59 in favor of a right in, right out. Architect Eric Eriksson said his client was also willing to eliminate a proposed shared use of an alleyway used by homeowners along Route 30, along with possibly doing away with the drive-thru.
But it wasn’t enough to sway plan commissioners — or residents.
Homeowner Ed Arter spoke up, saying adding a separate access for the gas station near the alleyway will simply create more issues.
“You’ll have three turning movements instead of one,” he said, explaining traffic could potentially be turning from southbound Route 30 into the gas station, from the gas station onto Route 30 and exiting from the alley — all at the same time.
Saying the traffic from the alley is “inconsequential,” Eriksson said the standard right in, right out was a safe option, adding that the traffic signal at Route 30 and Route 59 would slow traffic enough for vehicles to safely use the Route 30 entrance.
Judith Kachel, who lives at Route 59 and Newkirk, questioned whether drivers would use the right in, right out on Route 59 as intended, since a concrete median doesn’t extend far enough to block southbound traffic from turning into the proposed entrance.
“What is truly going to stop people coming south on Route 59 from making a left turn?” she asked. Kachel also questioned whether the drive-thru could contribute to traffic backups along Route 30 and Route 59 during busy times.
Opinion split on future of Route 59 corridor
The denial came after plan commissioners met with village trustees and historic preservation commission members in a special joint meeting to discuss their vision for the Route 59 corridor.
Under the village’s comprehensive plan, the corridor is designated a business transition district (BTD), which favors lower-impact business uses such as offices, and encourages property owners to convert rather than demolishing homes.
Despite their unanimous vote against the gas station plan, commissioners were divided on whether the corridor should remain BTD or become a more commercialized district.
Agreeing with Sobkoviak, commissioner Ed O’Rourke said he favors keeping the area BTD.
“If you look at what commercial does to neighboring property values and to health and safety, that’s what my concern is,” O’Rourke said.
Commissioner John Renzi said envisions more commercial uses along the corridor.
“In my world it’s a commercial hub at that intersection,” Renzi said, citing the estimated 40,000 vehicles that travel through it each day. “I don’t see anyone coming in and building a business transitional building at that location for any reason.”
Commissioner Andrew Heinen was also in favor of a more intense commercial zoning for the corridor.
Since the widening of Route 59, he said, “The whole use has changed.”
Commissioner Cyndi Fulco was a supporter of leaving the area BTD, saying the character should remain the same, but she did have a request for Eriksson.
“Put it at 143rd Street and Route 30,” she joked. “That’s where we need a gas station.”
Plan moves on to the village board
The plan commission’s decision doesn’t mean the project is dead. G.C. Real Estate’s request will still go before the village board, although Sobkoviak wasn’t certain exactly when that will happen.
Eriksson said despite the residents’ concerns, he believes the project has merit.
“It still is a very viable site for my client for a gas station,” he said.