WHEATON – After contentious debate, Wheaton residents will soon be able to fuel up their cars on the southeast corner of Roosevelt Road and President Street.
The Wheaton City Council approved a measure to allow the development of a Bucky's gas station and convenience store, as well as a AAA auto shop, on the now-vacant lot during its Oct. 21 meeting.
Previously, the city had asked Bucky's owner Buchanan Energy to adjust the dimensions of its pre-designed facility to accommodate various ordinances, such as the building's distance from the sidewalk and surrounding residences.
A representative from Buchanon, Richard McMahon, said that while the developer had brought its designs in a few feet, it would not be able to adjust them any further without compromising the aesthetics of the building – specifically a portico or porch on a side door to the building.
After some debate, councilman Phil Suess said he was "just not comfortable with the back and forth," and suggested the vote be tabled for another two weeks, so Buchanon and the city could develop a compromise.
Other council members asked if there was anything to be gained from waiting until the next meeting. When McMahon said that he wasn't sure if additional compromises could be made, some council members indicated that they were ready to vote against the project that night, especially after McMahon said that without the portico the project would be unlikely to move forward.
"My preference would be to go ahead and vote on the ordinance as it has been written and let them work it out," said council member John Rutledge. "We've got a setback requirement. If it was my residential building next door, we'd not want to have some of the variants granted."
Council member John Prendiville added that the council was "very comfortable making exceptions" for properties under development where there are barriers to construction, but he "did not see this as being one."
Greg Van Landingham, a member of Paragon Real Estate, which purchased the property, said that his group was closing the deal with AAA auto on Oct. 22 and that without a yes vote, the deal would fall through. However, he said, AAA would be willing to move the dividing line between the split property to accommodate the needs of the new Bucky's.
Consequently, the resolution was amended and passed unanimously. Wheaton Mayor Mike Gresk said that the entire board seemed as if they "wanted to see this get done."
Still, some were unhappy.
"When I first got on the council in early January, we wanted to be developer-friendly," said council member Thor Saline. "I don't find that we're being very developer-friendly in this situation."