Harwood Heights Plan Commission reccomends Fuller’s Car Wash on former Elliott’s site
by KEVIN GROSS
A proposal to build a Fuller’s Car Wash on the site of former Elliott’s Dairy at 4800 N. Nagle Ave., underwent design changes aimed to address residents concerns over traffic and noise and is a step closer to becoming reality.
The Village of Harwood Heights Plan Commission at its meeting July 19 voted unanimously and recommended the construction of the automatic car wash. The Village of Harwood Heights Board of Trustees is expected to vote on the proposal at its meeting on July 27, and sources say that the project is likely to be approved.
Designs underwent changes since an initial hearing on the proposal on June 28, when residents voiced concerns 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.
The new proposal features a different serpentine-style layout from the original, with the main structure set back in the center of the lot rather than on the northern edge adjacent to residential homes.
"We likely will plan on using this new layout and design at future locations of our washes," owner Matt Fuller said.
Changes to address noise concerns include the complete sheltering of car vacuum motors and producers within the internal structure with hoses going out of the building, additional noise-absorbing landscaping on the lot’s north and west sides with evergreen trees and a composite-material wall on the rear, sound absorbing car canopies over the pay station and exit of the facility, and the relocation of car dryers 10 feet back into the car wash tunnel to minimize noise emissions from the exit.
"None of these elements by themselves are the magic bullet," said Thomas Thunder, president and audiologist from Acoustic Associates, a company that conducted sound tests "However, add them all up and we get strong effects on noise reduction."
Thunder said that he helped conduct multiple sound tests, both to measure ambient noise at the proposed site as well as to measure the sound of equipment at the existing Fuller’s Car Wash at 2146 S. Rockwell Ave., which has a design like the original proposal in the village.
Alderman John Arena (45th) said that he met with members of Fuller’s to work on revisions to make the development more palatable to the community.
"I don’t think that Harwood Heights’ officials were content to simply rubber stamp the project," Arena said. "They wouldn’t have passed if it was roughly similar to the original design with more trees."
"We went through multiple iterations, and to his credit [Fuller] eventually suggested the serpentine design," Arena continued. "I didn’t come in with much, but he brought a ton of ideas."
Arena objected to the proposal at the last meeting of the Plan Commission. "The challenge here is that this business abuts a residential neighborhood," he said in June. "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 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?" Arena said in June.
The plan for an exit to be located on Natchez Avenue, a primarily residential street, was changed to dual exits on Gunnison Street and Nagle Avenue to address traffic concerns. The entrance to the wash will still be located on Natchez.
Additional adjustments included elimination of access to the adjacent residential alley, the complete surrounding of the site by fencing, and the creation of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) approved sidewalks.
At the meeting, some residents were not satisfied with the proposed changes.
"One of my concerns is that people will cut south down Natchez to the wash," Harwood Heights resident Tina Nikolavich said. "It’s already a narrow street with a school zone."
Bill Jackanity, a 45th Ward resident, proposed delaying the project to conduct a formal traffic impact study. No such studies were conducted during the revision phase, although plan commission member Chris White said that Harwood Heights did not require such tests.
"If you take our parking, you’re taking our tenants and you’re going to put us out of business," said Phillip Cypcar, a landlord of property at 6430 Gunnison St.
Harwood Heights police chief Frank Biagi said that he didn’t foresee the need for the elimination of parking spots beyond one to two spots near the Natchez entrance.
The regular board meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 27, at the Harwood Heights Village Hall, 7300 W. Wilson Ave.