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Will County Board blocks gas station/car wash proposal

Updated: April 23, 2013 2:40PM



A planned gas station/car wash in Frankfort Township hit a brick wall Thursday when the Will County Board voted against a zoning change and three special-use permits the business needed to open.

The controversial development at 194th Street and Harlem Avenue was opposed by many nearby residents, who feared it would increase noise and traffic through their streets, lowering home values. About 700 neighbors signed petitions opposing the project.

After the board’s vote, attorney Lyman Tieman and his client, developer Leonard McEnery, exited the meeting quickly without commenting. Neither could be reached by phone later regarding the vote or whether they plan to file a lawsuit against the county.

But the homeowners were elated with the vote.

“I’m delighted,” said Cynthia Schroeder, whose back yard would be adjacent to the Lenny’s Gas N Wash. “We don’t have to worry about the health effects.”

Schroeder, who is studying for a doctorate in neuroscience, said during the meeting that many studies link gasoline and diesel fuel fumes to illnesses in humans and animals.

“I am so glad that the board stood behind the constituents and did their due diligence and protected the people of the county,” Linda Arnold, another adjacent homeowner said. “... They fought for the safety of the children and the families.”

Tieman said McEnery was willing to agree to 33 special conditions to mitigate any negative effects the business would have caused. The land was zoned for business use before any nearby homes were built, and McEnery could operate a gas station there around the clock, without the car wash or certain other planned features, without requiring any county approval, Tieman said.

But Gigi Schroeder, Cynthia’s mother, said homeowners were told that because the site was split into two lots, nothing big could be built on it.

“We were told it was going to be an office building,” she said.

The land fell into foreclosure and is now owned by Suburban Bank and Trust. McEnery’s purchase of the property was contingent on him getting approval for his project from the county board.

Throughout the county approval process, opponents complained that the business — which was to include a gas station, convenience store, drive-through food window and 150-foot-long car wash — was too big to be near homes.

The county board voted 15 to 10 to deny special-use zoning permits for the car wash and drive-up food service and 21 to 4 against allowing packaged liquor sales at the store.

Board member Chuck Maher (R-Naperville) chose not to vote, saying more information was needed, especially on possible traffic issues. He unsuccessfully recommended that the case go back to the board’s land use committee for more research and that McEnery pay for a traffic study.

Key to the board’s decision was the opposition of board members Dave Izzo (R-Tinley Park) and Jim Moustis (R-Frankfort Township), who represent the area.

Izzo said he agreed with homeowners that more people were using 195th Street, also known as Lakeside Drive, to travel from Harlem Avenue to 80th Avenue and that a gas station/car wash would only increase traffic on that road. He urged the board to reject the zoning permits.

Board member Tom Weigel (R-New Lenox), chairman of the land use committee, also opposed the project, saying there are already three gas station/car washes in that area.

“There may be better uses for this property, which haven’t been thought of by developers,” he said.

Board member Mark Ferry (D-Plainfield Township) said everyone wants to pass a truck or bus that’s spewing diesel fumes on the highway “because of the smell,” but the homeowners adjacent to Lenny’s wouldn’t be able to do that.



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