County panel OKs gas station near Tinley Park
BY CINDY WOJDYLA CAIN Sun-Times Media March 12, 2013 6:26PM
Marie Roman, left, with Sandra Rennie and her husband, Gary Rennie, and other Tinley Park neighbors are not pleased that a car wash, gasoline station and liquor store is proposed for this empty lot behind their homes. It would be open 24/7. | File photo
Updated: April 14, 2013 6:42AM
Lenny’s Gas N Wash, a controversial project proposed for 194th Street and Harlem Avenue in Frankfort Township, cleared a major hurdle Tuesday, but residents aren’t giving up their fight to have the plan scrapped.
The Will County Board’s land-use committee approved three special-use permits that would allow a 150-foot-long car wash, drive-through food service and packaged liquor sales to be included in the proposed gas station/convenience store development.
The committee’s vote is advisory. The county board’s executive committee, which meets Thursday, must review the case, and the full county board is expected to vote on it at its March 21 meeting, which begins at 9:30 a.m. at 302 N. Chicago St., Joliet.
Many residents of the Tinley Trails subdivision in Tinley Park, which is adjacent to the west side of the five-acre parcel, oppose the project, claiming it would disrupt their neighborhood, pollute their air, endanger their children and increase crime.
They also worry it would lead to traffic congestion on 194th and 195th streets, which would feature exits and entrances into the site, especially now that 195th Street, also known as Lakeside Drive, has been extended to connect Harlem Avenue to 80th Avenue.
Residents met with developer Leonard McEnery to try to work out a compromise, but the homeowners were not satisfied.
After Tuesday’s vote, neighbors “are disappointed but hopeful,” said Michelle Ansari, who lives on 194th Street west of the site.
“It’s a little disheartening, but anything can happen,” Ansari said.
She spoke Tuesday to the committee about her concerns for safety with more vehicles in the neighborhood.
“They totally disagreed with that. They said it won’t increase traffic, that nobody would be cutting down the side streets. On the other side of the coin, there’s room in the plans for up to eight cars for the car wash, and eight cars for the drive-through window. Why do they need it to be so big?” Ansari said.
Despite the setback, neighbors plan to voice their opposition before the full county board.
“We’re definitely not giving up. We’ll push through to the bitter end,” Ansari said.
McEnery agreed to move diesel refueling stations to the Harlem Avenue side of the business and farther away from homes, according to Michael Smetana, senior planner for the land-use department. The entire development can be closer to Harlem because of a zoning change, Smetana said.
McEnery also agreed to close certain aspects of the business an hour earlier: The car wash would be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., and the drive-up window from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Lyman Tieman, an attorney representing McEnery, said a Dunkin’ Donuts might go in the convenience store, so the drive-through window would have to open early to capture morning commuters and customers.
Tieman said the project would generate an estimated $715,000 in sales tax and $1.32 million in state and federal gas tax revenue annually. The figures are based on a Lenny’s Gas N Wash that opened 13 months ago at 191st Street and 88th Avenue in Mokena. That Lenny’s Gas N Wash is in an industrial area buffered by more open space.
McEnery’s purchase of the Harlem Avenue site from Suburban Bank and Trust is contingent on him getting approval from the county board, which has jurisdiction because it is in an unincorporated area.
Sandy Rennie, who lives next door to the site, does not oppose economic development.
“We’re former small business owners, so we welcome newcomers, new establishments. But this does not fit in a residential neighborhood. A fence won’t stop the noise,” Rennie said.
She said the nearby Mokena Lenny’s site is kept clean “but that’s different. It’s not in a neighborhood.”
Rennie is confident the residents will prevail.
“We are united and we’ve never been stronger,” she said.
Contributing: Steve Metsch