Special Use for Mariano’s Gas Station Denied at Grandt’s Shell Property at Belmont Ave and Northwest Highway, Arlington Heights

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Grandt's Shell Rocket Arlington Heights
Grandt's Shell Rocket Arlington Heights.

Arlington Heights Rejects Allowing a Gas Station Where a Gas Station Already Exists, Claiming Traffic Concerns

All Village of Arlington Heights board members, including Mayor Hayes, voted to deny the special use for a Mariano’s gas station at 406 East Northwest Highway at Monday’s Village Board meeting August 3, 2020. Trustee Jim Tinaglia motioned to vote ‘yes’ to deny a Mariano’s fuel station at the site of the current Grandt’s Shell gas station, and Trustee John Scaletta seconded the motion. The board decision was needed following a failed property sale negotiation for the Grandt’s Shell property between Craig Grandt and the Arlington Heights Park District. After the failed negotiation, a property sale agreement between Grandt and a new potential owner was developed pending approved conditions. The new owner would lease property to Mariano’s for a Mariano’s-branded fuel station, pending approval of special use for the property — a new gas station without a service station. Without the Village of Arlington Heights board approval, the Mariano’s plans at the location at Belmont Avenue and Northwest Highway are apparently dead.

‘Yes’ is denial of special use, which kills the Mariano’s fuel station plans at 406 East Northwest Highway

Thomas Hayes – Yes
Trustee Richard Baldino – Yes
Trustee Mary Beth Canty – Yes
Trustee Robin LaBedz – Yes
Trustee Greg Padovani – Yes
Trustee Bert Rosenberg – Yes
Trustee John Scaletta – Yes
Trustee Thomas F. Schwingbeck Jr – Yes
Trustee Jim Tinaglia – Yes

Responding to a hint of alleged “village board – park district” collusion or even the village’s assistance in helping the park district negotiate a lower price for the Grandt property, Village Board members Tinaglia and Scaletta emphasized that the sole purpose of the decision of the board was to decide whether the Mariano’s fueling station met the requirements of special use. After hearing from many online meeting attendees during the 7:30 p.m. board meeting, the board finally made their decision just before 11:00 p.m.

Now the pressure is on the park board members to perhaps concede to a higher price for the Grandt property to meet the desires of the many “Not In My Back Yard” (NIMBY) anti-gas station neighbors who prefer less motor vehicle traffic and more open space at Recreation Park. They will also be facing pressure from other residents angered by the potential loss of a viable commercial property along US Highway 14 (Northwest Highway), which happens to exist along a line of many other commercial properties and near the residential neighborhood around Recreation Park. The Arlington Heights Park District has historically pushed hard for improvements to Recreation Park, and was once stung by a narrow rejection of a $39 million improvement referendum that would have paved the way to improvements (and increased motor vehicle traffic) to several parks, including Recreation Park.

The decision to allow or deny Mariano’s fueling station was based on inadequate forecasting information available regarding the number of customers that would use the Mariano’s fueling station. All board members were alarmed at the potential traffic increase to the residential neighborhood just north of the gas station property. According to board members, no reliable forecasting could predict how much increased traffic would pass through the Recreation Park neighborhood, especially Belmont Avenue. Nevertheless, without evidence, board members chose to believe the possibly exaggerated high traffic argument without any diligent consideration of traffic controls in the event of an actual high traffic effect at a hypothetically approved Mariano’s fuel station. Tinaglia hypothesized with an exaggeration of his own, saying that Belmont Avenue traffic could cut through all the way to Thomas Street, which isn’t actually possible because Belmont thru-traffic stops at Oakton Street because Belmont Avenue dead-ends just south of Olive Mary-Stitt School and south of Olive Street. In the end, all village board members voted in support of NIMBY neighbors of Recreation Park, supporters of the park district, and the park district board.

Arlington Heights Park District President Maryfran H. Leno had her own exaggeration, contradicting herself by claiming there is no need for a gas station, and then arguing that an approved Mariano’s fuel station would be a negative impact to the neighborhood with a large increase in traffic resulting from increased sales demand at the proposed Mariano’s fueling station. Leno made the claim as she read a prepared statement at the virtual board meeting, and as she was allowed to go at least 5 minutes over the 3-minute speaking limit. Grandt’s Shell owner Craig Grandt was cut off by Mayor Hayes shortly after his 3-minute time limit expired. Both Park District President Leno and gas station owner Grandt are considered the so-called principal sources of the predicament of the failed negotiations of Grandt’s property. Grandt accused the park district of low-balling his offering price.

Traffic fears, whether real or imagined, were the key factor of the argument and final decision. Some residents brought up the Arlington Heights Memorial Library’s planned makerspace as an additional source of unwanted traffic, but no virtual meeting attendees brought up concerns about the potential added traffic congestion that is looming from the proposed “4 North Hickory” mixed use development with 76 residential apartments and 3,500 square feet of commercial space, — the first proposal of hundreds more condo/apartment and retail space units that are desired by the Village Board as part of a TIF District just east of Recreation Park. The residential and commercial units are part of the Hickory Kensington Redevelopment plan and TIF adopted in 2013. If the Hickory Kensington Redevelopment plan ever comes to fruition, its traffic affect would likely dwarf any negative impact of a Mariano’s fuel station at Belmont and US 14. None of these NIMBY residents apparently put much energy into opposing the library’s makerspace or the Hickory Kensington Redevelopment plans — at least not as much energy as the energy spent in opposing the gas station change at Grandt’s property.

NIMBY speakers against the Mariano’s fuel station greatly outnumbered residents concerned about losing the commercial property’s income to the property tax rolls and sales tax rolls.

In summary, Trustee Scaletta claimed he’s never seen a discussion where opinions expressed were so often different or unrelated compared to the actual question of special use presented before the board. Also in summary, Mayor Hayes said that the park district’s methods in acquiring properties near Grandt’s Shell, and including Grandt’s Shell, have been inconsistent.

Grandt's Shell Rocket Arlington Heights
Grandt’s Shell Rocket Arlington Heights.



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