LAKE FOREST — Some members of the Lake Forest City Council do not think allowing Chase Bank to open a branch on Waukegan Road where McDonald’s once operated is a good idea. They are taking their time making a decision.
The council voted 6-1 January 16 at City Hall during a first reading of the bank’s application for a special use permit to tentatively approve it but defer a final decision until a second reading when all aldermen are scheduled to be present.
Though the council could have taken a final vote January 16, it decided to allow only a first reading with a second reading and final vote coming later. Alderman Raymond Buschmann was not at the meeting. City attorney Victor Filippini said votes on the first reading are not binding on the aldermen.
It now appears the final vote will come at 7:30 p.m. March 19 at City Hall.
At this point, two aldermen—Jack Reisenberg and Buschmann—oppose allowing a special use permit while another—Prue Beidler—has questions about it.
If approved, the former McDonald’s building will be demolished and a new building will be erected to house the bank, according to a presentation by Director of Community Development Catherine Czerniak.
McDonald’s Wanted To Stay
McDonald’s wanted to renew its land lease for the property, had a verbal agreement on rent with the landlord but no lease was signed, according to a statement by Buschmann read by Alderman Michelle Moreno. He said in the statement Chase was willing to pay substantially more rent.
Czerniak recounted the history of the property. She said the council rejected a special use permit for McDonald’s 20 years ago. After the city’s action, McDonald’s went to court and was awarded its special use permit. She said now there are people who would rather see McDonald’s remain than have another bank in the area.
“The Plan Commission at its August and September meeting acknowledged the elephant in the room,” said Czerniak. “No one wants any more banks. They asked the question does our comprehensive plan, does our zoning code allow the city to simply say close the door, we have enough banks, go away.”
Though the project was unanimously recommended by both the Plan Commission and the Building Review Board in a four-month process that started in August, some council members are uncertain about granting the request. Though there was litigation 20 years ago, that did not bother Heisenberg, who said he will not support the special use permit.
“I will not be intimidated by the threat of a lawsuit,” said Reisenberg. “We have Chase Bank before us this evening because they were the highest bidder. Good land use planning should never be for sale nor should it be the driver for community development.”
Buschmann: McDonald’s Served the Neighborhood
Buschmann said in his statement McDonald’s served the neighborhood in a variety of ways. He also said the city has put limits on adding financial institutions in commercial areas in the past to allow more retail or restaurant uses.
“Another bank does not come close to contributing (to the neighborhood) like the McDonald’s did to the frequently recurring needs to people in nearby or adjacent neighborhoods,” Buschmann said in his statement. “I would support an effort to improve on this community shopping district (in west Lake Forest) before it is too late.”
Beidler did not say she was opposed to granting the special use permit but showed little enthusiasm. She would like to see something that got her more excited. She wants to see a use that will do for the area what McDonald’s did.
“My favorite voting for something is when I am excited by it or (it is) a solution to something that I had seen as problematic,” Beidler said. “Unfortunately this does not meet those criteria for me. I thought a McDonald’s was a pretty swell gathering place.”
Before the March 19 meeting, Lansing said the city’s Legal Committee will review the proposed ordinance so the council is fully informed about any potential consequences. Alderman Tim Newman did not indicate what his final vote will be but stressed the importance of sound legal footing.