Residents object to proposed car wash for Elliott’s site
by KEVIN GROSS
Residents voiced opposition to a proposed car wash on the former site of Elliott’s Dairy, 4800 N. Nagle Ave., at a meeting June 28 of the Plan Commission in the Village of Harwood Heights.
Fuller’s Car Wash, which has more than 200 locations in the state, plans to build an automated express car wash, with a small retail office and at least 10 self-serve vacuum stations.
Owner Matt Fuller said that the chain is part of a "family-oriented business model that strives on cleanliness and serving customers."
Corporate Design Development architect Chris Kalischefski said that he expected the proposal to pass with few hitches, and said that he had "never seen so much opposition to a car wash in my life."
About 50 residents attended the meeting, and a majority spoke out against the development.
Residents were concerned about the increase in noise, traffic and pollution, lack of parking spaces, safety concerns for Beard School children and questions of compliance with municipal code.
Kalischefski said the project would be a low-intensity use of the plot, saying that "quick serve restaurants with drive-thrus contribute considerably more to noise and traffic," citing an example of McDonald’s franchises that bring in an average of 1,000 cars per day. The car wash is projected to serve an average of 400 per day.
Fuller said that the project would not add to traffic, but utilize existing traffic on the busy throughways of Nagle Avenue and Gunnison Street. Profit estimates based on pre-existing traffic patterns, as well as the relative lack of car washes nearby, were cited as primary reasons for choosing the site for the project. A car wash is located in Harwood Heights at Lawrence Avenue and Canfield Avenue.
The design of the site would be 20 percent landscaped, and is about 3 1/2 times less dense than the municipal floor-to-area ratio limit for B-1 zoning district density. Also, trees as well as a rear wall ranging from 10 to 15 feet tall would absorb and deflect sound away from nearby residents.
Illinois state regulations state that developments of such types must limit noise levels to less than 55 decibels by day and 45 by night. According to Kalischefski, the wash would comply with that limit, and that it wouldn’t increase noise because the existing ambient noise by that intersection was already measured at 60 decibels.
Sandra Reyes, a resident in the 45th Ward, questioned whether the cited 60-decibel measurement accurately reflected the full variance of pre-existing noise within a day, and implored town officials to conduct their own independent study on noise levels.
Members of the commission also questioned provided noise estimates, citing a different sound measurement chart that claimed at least 73 decibels of noise would emit from the combined 150-horsepower of Fuller’s vacuums.
"Car washes unequivocally lower property values," said Harwood Heights resident Michael Ray. "Car washes should be located in mall parking lots, not residential areas." Ray said that he had previously worked on blocking other car wash developments.
Alderman John Arena (45th), who attended the meeting, said that a section of the village requires a 25-foot rear yard setback for B-1 zoning or a higher commercial development, a feature not prevalent within initial renderings of the project.
"The challenge here is that this business abuts a residential neighborhood," Arena said. "This is not the right location. We need to find a more proper use for this lot." The 45th Ward is adjacent to the village.
"In certain instances, code can be circumvented," said commission member Chris White. Under Harwood Heights’ code, automobile service stations located in B-1 zoning districts require special use approval.
"In Chicago we need to go above and beyond to buffer residents," Arena said. "If we’re going to do this, will the Fullers help cooperate and mitigate the costs that the city has to take?"
Project officials have said that they would meet with Arena to discuss strategies to buffer the development from neighboring residents.
A second hearing on the proposal will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 19, at Village Hall, 7300 W. Wilson Ave.