Village Board: Officials approve gas station plan in midst of resident opposition
The Homer Glen Village Board approved a plan for a gas station at the corner of Gougar Road and 159th Street off Interstate 355 on June 26 that was met with some opposition by residents.
After a proposal to build a Gas N Wash station was voted down by the Village Board in October 2017, many residents said they thought the issue was settled.
Yet, on the recommendation of the Plan Commission, which approved the proposal 5-1 on May 16, a 24-hour Amoco station and Pride Cafe was approved by the board this week on the same margin. Trustee Sharon Sweas cast the lone vote to deny the plan.
Before the issue came to vote, seven residents spoke out against the construction of the station, which includes bays for semi-trucks to park and refuel.
“I’m definitely not opposed to a gas station going in on the corner,” said Shady Lane resident Kathleen Lauren. “I think most of my neighbors are in agreement on that. I’m opposed to the truck fueling bays because it’s a definite risk to the children of District 92.”
The residents argued that increased semi-truck traffic on Gougar Road would create a hazard with the school buses headed into Will County School District 92’s Oak Prairie Junior High. Residents noted slippery weather conditions already create hazards on the hilly portion of Gougar near the school, along which there are several bus stops.
Trucks are legally prohibited from being on Gougar; however, this has not deterred them from using the route as they enter and exit the growing number of warehouses and industrial sites in Lockport. While the plan includes new signage to deter trucks from turning North onto Gougar, residents are not convinced this will make a difference.
Resident Tim O’Meara, who lives at Shady Lane and Gougar Road, claimed to have on multiple occasions counted between 30 and 40 trucks per day coming down the road, many he said travelling at unsafe speeds.
Another concern posed by residents beyond the safety and noise issues created by an increase of trucks of Gougar Road was the possibility the truckers would use the station as a resting place overnight. While the agreement to develop the gas station specifies that trucks are not allowed to idle or park at the station overnight, residents expressed concern that the rules would be ignored, especially as truck traffic is anticipated to increase drastically with the completion of Lockport’s Prologis development.
In all the cases, the issue of enforcement was raised. Lockport controls the other three corners of the intersection and is supposed to have jurisdiction over Gougar, though residents report no police presence pulling over the trucks. The Will County Sheriff’s Office, who are contracted to police Homer Glen, could also patrol the area, though Mayor George Yukich said a patrol car could not constantly be spared to cover the area.
“The Will County police do a great job in Homer, but this isn’t our property, and they can’t be there all the time,” Yukich said.
Yukich’s remarks were met with anger from the residents, several of whom live in Homer Township and not officially within the boundaries of Homer Glen.
As the exchange grew heated, Yukich acknowledged that since the Village has to pay for the Sheriff’s services, they were limited on how much they would do.
Only two members of the pubic spoke in defense of the plan — Kathy Boo, whose property the gas station will be built on, and Rose Reynders, who owns Tazza Italian Ristorante in Homer Glen.
Reinders argued that the trucks are necessary in the village for businesses like hers to receive supplies, though did not acknowledge the specific safety concerns on Gougar Road.
“I support Kathy Boo and her family,” she said. “We can’t pass on this opportunity to get this kind of revenue for the Village.”
Reinders was greeted with boos from the audience after finishing her statement. Boo then spoke.
“My family has lived on this property for five generations,” she said. “So I’ve seen the changes in the neighborhood you are all complaining about. I was at the meetings opposing the warehouses when Lockport first proposed putting them in,” she noted. “I’m not thrilled about some the changes I’ll have to make down the line, either, but it’s called progress, and it has to happen one way or another.”
Despite the residents’ concerns, most of the board members’ discussion around the project was related to the logistics and aesthetics of sign placement, which the developer had asked for several variances on.
Ultimately, the board decided to approved the project while tabling approval on the signage variances until alternative options could be discussed and more information was available.
Sweas offered some concern for the issues the residents’ raised, as well as for pollution, and proposed that the driveway onto Gougar be eliminated or re-configured to prevent right-hand turns onto the roadway. This proposal, however, was dismissed.
According to Trustee Ruben Pazmino, who spoke to The Homer Horizon the day after the meeting, the idea was deemed impractical because it would “create traffic congestion at the intersection and prevent cars from legally turning onto the road.”
When questioned by the public why the Gas N Wash station was turned away, but the Amoco station was not facing similar scrutiny, Yukich said it was because the owner of the Gas N Wash was demanding a video gaming license, which the Village was not willing to provide.
Pazmino added it was the better option for the Village financially.
“This was going to happen one way or another,” Pazmino said. “Lockport controls the other three corners of the intersection, and I have it firsthand that Kathy Boo would annex into Lockport if this proposal didn’t go through, and they would allow the construction.
“There wasn’t a lot we could do, so why give the tax revenue to Lockport if we could get it into Homer?”
The gas station and restaurant will be built on just over five acres of the Boo property, which totals over 45 acres. While the sign ordinances were not permitted, in granting approval for the plan, the board did approve a variance for a reduced setback from the street of 30.5 feet instead of 40 feet and permission for both an outdoor seating area and propane canister storage alongside the building.
During the meeting, Boo stated that the business is expected to draw in up to $500,000 in revenue annually.
Pazmino and fellow Trustee Ann Holtz both said they would look into working with Will County to increase penalties for trucks on Gougar Road and patrols in the area.
“I think there should be more cooperation with Lockport in policing the area, and I think we should look into paying Will County more to increase patrols on the road,” Holtz said.
Holtz also said she had asked Chief Building Official Joe Baber to look into a resident’s proposal to “build an arch north of the gas station that would allow buses but not trucks through.”
“Lockport would need to do the same at the north end of Gougar by the school,” she said. “But we need to do something to make it work, because the truck traffic isn’t going anywhere.”