The long fight over development of a vacant lot in unincorporated DuPage County near Glen Ellyn saw a new twist March 10 when Buck's Inc. filed a federal lawsuit against the county.
The suit asks the U.S. District Court to overturn the county's "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable denial" of a permit to build a gas station, mini-mart, car wash and outdoor dining facility at Butterfield Road and Route 53.
The DuPage County Board voted 14 to 4 on Dec. 10, 2013 to deny the request after concerns were raised about the health risks of having a gas station directly west of the Butterfield Park District.
"Would you feel comfortable having this mega-station as your neighbor, or next door to your grandchild's home, or next to where your child goes to school, swims or plays?" said Park District Executive Director Larry Reiner on the day of the vote.
The Zoning Board of Appeals previously recommended project approval after hearing from government officials specializing in stormwater, transportation, health and building.
During the 1990s, the property was home to a Shell Gas Station, now closed and demolished, the suit said. It also saw a proposed Shell Oil development in 2000, which was never realized. Mobil and BP gas stations occupy neighboring corners of the intersection.
Reiner said recently that the park district was very close to a deal to purchase the 2.4-acre parcel, and is in talks with landowners Nicolette Bauer and Raymond Bozicnick, of Florida, who are named with Buck's in the suit.
Gas stations often release high levels of the carcinogen benzene, which can cause drowsiness, dizziness, confusion and anemia, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Tobacco smoke, motor vehicle exhaust and industrial emissions also contain large amounts of the chemical.
Reiner said Buck's plan met federal standards for carcinogenic materials, but would still release a volume he and other experts believe to be dangerous, in addition to concerns about traffic and development size.
"People from the community asked us to purchase this land to prevent this from ever happening again," he said. "As soon as we have that deal signed, that suit will go away."
Wheaton law firm Rathje & Woodward, which represents Buck's, declined to comment on the litigation, as did DuPage County State's Attorney's Office spokesman Paul Darrah.