Arlington Heights Neighbors Question Safety, Oppose Thorntons Gas Station at Rand & Thomas

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A group of Arlington Heights residents are opposing a City of Prospect Heights approval for a proposal that may allow a 24-hour Thorntons gas station and convenience store at the northwest corner of Rand Road and Thomas Street.

CARDINAL NEWS | Thorntons 24-Hour Gas Station Getting Close to Opening at Thomas Street and Rand Road (US 12) in Prospect Heights

The proposed development at 1600 North Rand Road involves …

1) a 1.47 acre commercial property in B2-A General/Special Commercial Zoning District,

2) construction of a 4,400 square foot convenience gas station store,

3) 10 pump fueling stations,

4) parking and underground water detention, and

5) construction of added green space.

The development will involve the demolition of four currently standing structures that are potentially a blighted area.

The site is the location of the former Peep’s Hot Dog stand and the former Prospect Heights Grill, a body shop, and a landscaping business — a triangular-shaped property, which is surrounded by single-family homes located in Prospect Heights to the west and Arlington Heights to the south and southwest across Thomas Street. The area south of Rand Road is somewhat a checkerboard of city limits near the proposed site and further east along Rand Road.

As in many projects near bordering communities, the neighbors outside the city limits of the proposed project may have little power in defeating the project.

Arlington Heights residents who live nearby have complained that a Thorntons gas station will endanger children who walk past the site on the way to school. However, that danger is probably dwarfed compared to actually crossing Rand Road as a pedestrian. The speed limit nearby is 35 mph.

Rand Road or US 12 nearby has safety issues common with a busy highway. There have been two fatal accidents in the area in recent years. On February 7, 2007 a teen was killed on Rand Road just east of Dryden on his way to work at Jewel-Osco near Palatine Road. On March 11, 2014 a wrong-way driver died and caused the death of another motorist on Rand Road just west of Thomas Street.

The group of neighbors opposing the development have produced a social media page (Link Expired) that raises concerns and objections.

The group is concerned about …

1) driveway access and congestion on Thomas Street,

2) a 24-hour operation that would increase noise and headlights shining into residences,

3) the reduction of property values,

4) the selling of tobacco and alcohol near school, and

5) light pollution from property lights described as “ridiculous lights that steal or night sky.”

The group wants a business that is more neighbor-friendly with single-family homes and John Hersey High School nearby.

Prospect Heights Mayor Nicholas Helmer began the comment portion of the November 28, 2016 meeting by asking the Arlington Heights residents present to appoint a representative to speak for group, saying, “There’s no use repeating everything.”

Helmer expressed frustration about the objections to the Thorntons’ proposal considering the site now sits vacant, which he described as “a downright travesty.”

“What would you want there?” Helmer asked. Helmer expressed anger that the Village of Arlington Heights refused to let the developer of the Thorntons’ project tap into a village water main in front of the property.

“Arlington Heights has not been very friendly when it comes to supplying us water … I’m incensed over the whole thing,” Helmer said.

The Village of Arlington Heights has a long-standing policy against supplying water to commercial businesses outside of the village boundaries. An official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained that an agreement to provide a water supply to a gas station could open the village to liability. The Village of Arlington Heights could be sued if the extinguishment of a major gas station fire or gasoline tanker fire was hampered by a failure in the water supply. And of course the Village of Arlington Heights would rather see the tax revenue of a business like Thorntons in it’s own city limits if Arlington Heights were to approve a gas station.

The official shook his head at the thought of Helmer being incensed over the water supply issue, pointing out that Prospect Heights has residences near Arlington Heights that aren’t protected by fire hydrants as are all Arlington Heights residences. He explained, when Prospect Heights has a house fire adjacent to an Arlington Heights neighborhood, their firefighters are assisted with Arlington Heights firefighters, using Arlington Heights fire equipment, hooked up to Arlington Heights fire hydrants, bringing Arlington Heights water to the Prospect Heights house fire without delay. Arlington Heights has its own issues with water. The aging system is subject to frequent water main breaks, which often occur while firefighters are fighting a fire. The official added, “it’s not like Arlington Heights is being greedy with its water supply; it’s being prudent.”

The Village of Arlington Heights offered suggestions to Thorntons plans, which included providing additional greenspace and landscaping (12-month screening along Thomas Street); a taller west property line fence (6 feet to 8 feet); and improvements to the lighting plans for the building, the gas pumps bay and parking areas (reducing 23-foot light pole height and changing fixture from quad- to tri-head). Arlington Heights asked that lighting be reduced especially at the back of the building (west side). In this case, the Village of Arlington Heights has no ruling power over the jurisdiction, and is unable to do anything to prevent the approval and construction.

A Prospect Heights resident, familiar with the project, praised Prospect Heights for being aggressive with the development along US 12. Wanting his name withheld, he praised the success of H.O.M.E Bar in the Prospect Crossings shopping center, and the success of Prospect Heights officials attracting Tony’s Finer Foods promptly after Ultra went out of business, and the construction of a new storage facility just east of Aldi Foods. The Prospect Heights resident compared the success of Prospect Crossings to the blighted Southpoint shopping center in Arlington Heights, which has been mostly vacant for years. He added, “the extra lighting from the gas station will actually add to pedestrian safety for students crossing Rand Road at Thomas Street, because from November to February the hours after school dismissal are already in darkness.”

The Thorntons’ development proposal was unanimously supported by the Prospect Heights Plan Commission Zoning Board of Appeals, and is expected for vote by the City Council within the next month.

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October 27, 2016 Planning Zoning Board of Appeals Meeting

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