LAKE FOREST — A car wash, gas station and convenience store at the southeast corner of Waukegan and Everett Roads in west Lake Forest is a step closer to reality after receiving a positive recommendation from the Lake Forest Plan Commission.
The commission voted 4-2 to recommend a special-use permit for the Waterway Car Wash November 8 despite the objection of 25 people out of a standing-room-only crowd of more than 100 at City Hall. No member of the public spoke in favor of the facility.
Residents complained about noise from the car wash and additional traffic at an already busy intersection, but four of the six commissioners voting expressed their opinion that the requirements for a special-use permit were met.
The meeting grew raucous at times as Plan Commission Chair Michael Ley banged his gavel more than once to quiet the crowd.
“Please keep things civil and respectful,” said Ley before the public hearing started. “No booing, no hissing.”
After nearly four hours of testimony from the public and experts provided by both Waterway and the city, the commission tacked a number of requirements on the permit, which will be worked into an ordinance for a vote from the Lake Forest City Council.
Catherine Czerniak, the city’s director of community development, said after the meeting she did not know when the council would consider the special-use permit.
If the council approves the permit accepting all the commission’s conditions, Waterway will have to modify its planned hours of operation and keep the automatic doors to the car wash tunnel closed when blowers are going. The company must also pay for sound testing by an expert designated by the city after six months of operation, among other requirements.
Car Wash Hours Limited
Car wash hours will be limited to 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and on weekends from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Gas will be sold from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Michael Goldman, vice president of site development and general counsel for Waterway, expressed concerns about the hours-of-operation requirement. He indicated he may try to persuade the council to allow longer hours.
Another condition requires Waterway to pay for new windows at the St. Patrick Catholic Church rectory across Everett Road to the north and at an office building immediately to the east.
Commissioner Michael Freeman suggested the conditions when he crafted his motion recommending the special-use permit. He likened the controversy to the McDonald’s restaurant, which was nearby the lot for 20 years until it closed in August.
“People didn’t want McDonald’s,” said Freeman. “Then when it closed they were sorry to lose it. This is a proper use for the property under the (zoning) ordinance.”
Freeman was joined in his yes vote by Commissioners Tim Henry, Monica Ruggles and Louis Pickus. Voting against the measure were Commissioner Rosemary Kehr and Ley. Ley said sound coming from the car wash was the deciding factor for him.
“But for the noise of the blowers this would be a slam dunk,” said Ley. “I’m not sure that the things proposed (to modify the noise) are going to be able to reduce it. I don’t want to put this neighborhood through this.”
Henry Cites Lost Business Opportunities
Henry said the area is zoned for a commercial use, and that allowing this development is a must to avoid other businesses from shying away from Lake Forest. He said the city tried to place too many restrictions on Costco and Whole Foods, causing them to walk away.
“Nothing has been on this site for 11 years,” said Henry. “This is not the way we attract and sustain business in our town.”
Common sense was a word used by people on both sides of the issue, such as Pickus and Father Robert Dempsey of St. Patrick Catholic Church. He expressed concerns about the increased noise around a corner that already has a busy railroad crossing on the west side of Waukegan Road.
“Quality of life cannot be reduced to a number,” said Dempsey of the noise studies. “This is where we need common sense.”
Pickus started the deliberations among the commissioners with the same common sense theme voicing concerns about the nose. Nevertheless he was satisfied the requirements for a special-use permit were met.
“The noise is a real issue that’s not going to go away,” said Pickus. “We have to look at what’s good for the whole community and cannot pick winners and losers.”