Back in 2010 when the real estate market was limping along with the rest of the country during the recession, the Village of Glen Ellyn decided to purchase a decaying piece of land that use to house a Marathon gas station at the southeast corner of Five Corners, home to historic Stacy’s Tavern.
The village viewed this piece of land as an eye-sore, and as one of the first things people saw when entering Glen Ellyn from the north, it only made sense to buy the land, clean it up and develop it.
September of 2010 was not exactly the most opportune time to purchase the land, after reaching a low median sales price in Glen Ellyn of $302,500 in November of 2009 the market actually appeared to be back on the upswing in late 2010. At the time of the purchase the market in Glen Ellyn had a median sales price of $342,500 which would eventually crash down to a low of $295,000 in September of 2012. Despite this, after being valued at $1.4 million in 2005, the village was able to acquire the land for just $590,000.
A little less than seven years later, this past March the village plowed forward with their plans of a 24-hour gas station at the corner. The village seemingly did not bat an eye at the increasingly heated opposition from residents, as well as a unanimous denial from the plan commission to provide an exception that would allow a special-use permit needed to pave the way towards the future gas station.
While this unanimous decision seemed like a decisive win for opponents of the project, the plan commission is only there to advise and provide recommendations, and does not have any authority over decision making.
“With opaque transparency, the board pushed a special use permit for the land through in three weeks. In so doing, the board overturned the unanimous vote by the planning commission to reject the special use application — an unprecedented move.” – Andrew Livingston in a letter to the editor in the Daily Herald on March 29.
After sending out requests for proposals from investors in 2012 and only receiving two responses with one being a gas station that fell through, the village put out a request again two years later and received nothing. After hiring a real estate firm, DKMallon, in August of 2014 they finally received an offer to buy the property from True North Energy LLC and sold the property a year later for $630,000.
Despite seemingly no one in favor of the project and over 1,000 signatures on a petition to prevent it, the Glen Ellyn Village Board voted 5-0 to approve the gas station and 4200 square foot convenience store in late April, with a few variations intended to appease the opponents of the project.
These variations included a change from being open 24-hours to a close at midnight and reopen at 5 a.m., in addition to added landscaping which would theoretically give more of a buffer to the neighbors of the site.
While these concessions certainly help, concerns remain about the proximity of a 12-pump gas station to nearby Forest Glen Elementary School, as opponents cited benzene fumes from the gas as a cancer risk to the kids. For a full read on the concerns of residents, check out protectglenellyn.org.
Those behind Protect Glen Ellyn have filed a suit against both the Village and the gas station operator True North. Here’s the official statement from their website:
On May 22, 2017, Protect Glen Ellyn, Inc. filed suit against the Village of Glen Ellyn and True North Energy, LLC regarding the planned gas station development at Five Corners. This Complaint is seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to affirm the Plaintiff’s real property and due process rights, and to enforce the Village of Glen Ellyn’s Zoning Ordinance against itself.
We believe in full transparency – feel free to read the 200+ page legal Complaint here.
While the opponents of the projects have valid concerns, the lot has been empty for far too long. In an ideal world the village would have found a project for that corner that fit the historical significance of its placement, as well as an establishment that would provide both value to residents and a tax incentive to the village. The problem is that this property had been on the books for over six years and despite previous efforts, no other viable options had materialized despite repeated efforts from the village.
Some will argue that the village needed to be more patient here, and that in the end all this does is degrade Stacy’s Tavern and the Historical Society across the street, not to mention the close proximity to Forest Glen Elementary. In an ideal world, it’s hard to argue with that viewpoint. This will more than likely suppress the property value of the neighboring lots and you have to feel for those residents.
To the credit of the developers, the gas station has been redesigned to better fit the space, both aesthetically and spatially. For homes to the south, the developers are keeping a 25-35 foot wooded area undisturbed to provide a buffer, and a six-foot fence will be put up around the property, higher than the four-foot village max.
To those following this project it’s been one cruel roller coaster ride, with the lawsuit filing representing a last ditch effort to provide a glimmer of hope to those that want to defeat this gas station once and for all. At the very least, if the project does move forward as planned, the outrage by neighbors and residents has caused the developers to make over 30 changes to the original proposal, according to the Daily Herald:
The development has been the subject of more than a dozen village meetings and hours of public comment. That input from neighbors and village staffers led developers to make more than 30 revisions to their proposal since early 2016, resulting in an improved project, village officials say.
The next step in determining the future of this project will be on September 18, when DuPage judge Bonnie Wheaton is set to have a status hearing on the lawsuit.