Car wash plan infuriates Tinley Park neighbors
BY STEVE METSCH firstname.lastname@example.org November 3, 2012 1:54AM
Marie Roman, left, sits with Sandra Rennie and her husband Gary Rennie on the swingset owned by the Rennie's on their property in the Tinley Trail subdivision in Tinley Park, IL on Friday November 2, 2012. They and other neighbors are not pleased that a car wash, gas station, liquor store is proposed for this empty lot behind their homes. It would be open 24-7. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 5, 2012 6:25AM
From the back yard of Gary and Sandy Rennie’s home, you see a lot of nothing. And that’s how they like it.
There are weeds and a small hill on five vacant acres at the southwest corner of 194th Street and Harlem Avenue in unincorporated Will County.
It’s peaceful — a rabbit was seen darting out of the weeds Friday morning. You barely noticed traffic on Harlem.
The Rennies’ grandchildren, ages 5 and 2, enjoy playing on a swingset in the yard. Gary and Sandy, whose home is in Tinley Park, enjoy the quiet they get from living beside a large vacant lot.
But that could soon change.
Leonard McEnery, of Orland Park, wants to build Lenny’s Gas N Wash, a gas station that would be open around the clock. He wants a liquor license and a car wash, too.
That’s why there’s a large sign in the Rennie front yard urging neighbors to attend a Will County Planning and Zoning Commission meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in Joliet.
Asked if she thought residents can win, Sandy Rennie smiled and said “we have a track record.” She noted how residents’ opposition helped prevent construction of a Wal-Mart at 191st and Harlem a few years ago.
Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki doesn’t like the gas station either, but does want more commercial development along Harlem Avenue south of Interstate 80.
The Wal-Mart project, which he said fell victim in part to residents’ opposition and the land’s high price tag, was mainly prevented “by the poor economy,” he said.
He’s hopeful “a few nibbles lately” will materialize into a development to complement Brookside Marketplace on the northwest corner of 191st and Harlem.
Zabrocki cautioned that it’s hard to attract development to the east side of Harlem Avenue, land in Cook County with its higher property tax rates.
“I don’t think a gas station would bring in new developers. And I don’t think we can stop the gas station because it is zoned that way. But we can object to the diesel trucks fueling there,” he said.
His opposition to diesel trucks is shared by residents.
Gary, Sandy and their neighbors also are worried about the safety of children, noise, air and light pollution, truck traffic, decreased property values, a drive-through window for food service, alcohol sales, and potential criminal activity if the gas station and car wash is built.
“The traffic, we feel, would be really bad,” said Gary, who worries about noisy trucks filling up their tanks at all hours of the night.
Although a county study of the plan does not find that traffic would increase on local streets, residents think it may be hard for trucks to safely turn into the gas station without a turning lane on southbound Harlem.
Zabrocki said the station would be “the closest to I-80 for trucks,” and expects increased traffic.
Sandy worries that inhaling diesel fumes could cause health problems.
She and Gary, who have lived in their home for 12 years, knew the vacant lot would be developed some day.
“We’re not opposed to commercial use. We know that jobs are important to a community, but we don’t want this type of development. There’s a gas station two blocks away. There’s another one at 183rd and Harlem. That’s enough,” Sandy said.
And there’s another Lenny’s Gas N Wash less than three miles away at 191st Street and 88th Avenue in Mokena. It opened earlier this year and has been trouble-free, Mokena police Chief Randy Rajewski said.
“We’ve had no calls over there. The place is really nice. It’s been very quiet. It’s kind of an upscale place when compared with other gas stations,” Rajewski said.
Sandy Rennie said McEnery once visited her home to talk about his plans.
“I told him if he opened a restaurant or a strip mall, we would patronize those,” Sandy said.
McEnery did not immediately return a phone call Friday. Neither did his attorney, Lyman Tieman, of Mokena.
Marie Roman, who lives down the block, is worried that prostitutes may start hanging around a 24-hour gas station serving “lonely truckers late at night.”
“I do think it could happen. You could have truckers sleeping in their trucks. We don’t need (prostitutes) standing over there. This is a residential community where people raise their children,” Roman said.
The developer’s plan does not call for overnight parking, county officials said.
“I’m also concerned with the environment. Car washes take a lot of water and we already have watering restrictions here in Tinley Park,” said Roman, who prefers a dog park or bird sanctuary.
Although the site is not in Tinley Park, the village opposes the plan and is sending a letter to the county to that effect, Zabrocki said. His main concerns are alcohol sales and trucks filling up overnight.
County officials said the village’s letter and residents’ concerns would be taken into consideration at the hearing.
The site does not need a special-use permit for the gas station, but would need one for liquor sales and the car wash, said David Dubois, director of the county’s development review division.
It is possible that the county board could limit the hours when liquor is sold or the car wash operates as part of the special-use permit, said Curt Paddock, director of the Will County Land Use Department.
An advisory vote by the planning and zoning commission would go to the county board’s land use and development committee, which would also make an advisory vote before sending the proposal to the full county board for its decision in December, Paddock said.
Asked if she thought residents can win, Sandy Rennie said people living in the Tinley Trails subdivision “have been so supportive” and are united in their opposition.