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Community objections could halt gas station proposal

Four-pump station would be at 106th and North

Aug. 14, 2012

Traffic concerns and neighborhood objections outweighed the value of filling a vacant commercial space on North Avenue for the Plan Commission on Monday, and a proposed gas station did not win endorsement.

Ajit Walia of Spring North Corp. outlined a plan for a four-pump filling station at the southwest corner of 106th Street and North Avenue, the site of a former credit union. He proposed preserving the small building on the site for use as a convenience store, building canopies on either side and installing an underground tank on the corner of the property.

Walia said he had discussed the plan with city officials, including having had a lengthy discussion at the site with commission member and Alderwoman Kathleen Causier, whose district includes the corner.

Walia proposed a station that would be open from 4:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m., and said he would seek a license to sell beer and liquor. The hours of operation would be a break with precedent, and met objection from several commissioners and members of the public. Walia said he could live with a 5 a.m. to midnight schedule.

The sale of alcohol was just as big a problem. The city's principal planner, Tammy Szudy, said no gas station in the city is allowed to sell alcohol, and, again, the proposal met strenuous objection from many present. Walia said the sale of alcohol was not crucial to the business.

"I'm happy to see the project, something coming of the empty building - the city has enough empty buildings," said Jeff Sivak, who lives near the site. But he spoke in favor of the shorter hours and no liquor sales.

Alex Livesey, who lives in the first house behind the site, said there are five gas stations within a mile. She outlined a list of concerns, including traffic volume and turning patterns, including possible U-turns, that would increase the danger for pedestrians and cyclists; possible garbage accumulation; and "foul language" and bad air that would affect her 3-year-old son.

"I beg you not to put a gas station next to our home," she said to the commission.

For Kitty Fleming, who owns Manhattan Textiles at 10505 W. North Ave., it was a matter of taste.

"Is it the best use? Will it enhance the area, our businesses?" she asked. "I'm looking for a compatible business, being very mindful that the whole area is looking for an upscale scenario."

Others spoke about traffic in the quiet streets and alleys west of North Avenue, and Walia acknowledged that a huge tanker truck would refill the station once or twice a week, likely arriving at 4:30 a.m. and circling a residential block to gain access.

Walia said that Mayfair is the only shopping center in the area that doesn't have a gas station nearby, and said his station would offer convenience to people who would otherwise have to drive out of their way to find gas.

"Nobody wants the gas. At the same time, everybody needs the gas," he said.

Commission member Jody Lowe praised Walia's business plan, but urged him to explore other sites. The commission voted, 4-1, against the plan, with John Albert voting for it.

The Plan Commission will send its recommendation against the proposal to the Community Development Committee, which meets Sept. 4.

Next Step

WHAT: Community Development Committee considers gas station proposal

WHEN: Sept. 4, time to be announced

WHERE: City Hall, 7725 W. North Ave.

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