ZBA approves Starbucks drive-through across from expressway in Norwood Park; 4-flat in Old Irving Park area also okayed
by BRIAN NADIG
The Zoning Board of Appeals at its Oct. 15 meeting approved plans to build a Starbucks Coffee with a drive-through facility across from the Kennedy Expressway in Norwood Park and a four-flat in Old Irving Park.
Project traffic consultant Javier Millan testified that the 70 percent of the traffic going into the proposed Starbucks at 5600 N. Harlem Ave. would be “already in the area” and this not adding to the existing congestion.
“They’re looking for a convenient way to get a cup of coffee and be on their way,” Millan told the zoning board, which approved a special use request for the drive-through.
Project developer Jerry Cairo acknowledged that Harlem is “a busy street,” but told the board, “We really aren’t going to add a lot to it.”
The longtime vacant parcel is located at the northwest corner of Harlem and Bryn Mawr avenues, just to the north of the westbound lanes of the Kennedy Expressway and the Harlem CTA Station, 5550 N. Harlem Ave.
Plans call for vehicles to be allowed to make a right turn into and out of the site from both Harlem and Bryn Mawr. Some resident have expressed concern that motorists leaving the site would be cutting through area side streets in order to gain access to northbound Harlem since left turns would be prohibited from the parking lot.
“Bryn Mawr is a one-way street (westbound). People are going to start driving into our neighborhood,” said Sharon Sisto, whose home is adjacent to the development site. “It’s very dangerous here, and adding this Starbucks will jut make things worse.”
Sisto also expressed concern that the speakers from the drive-through lane are “going to be blaring all that time.” Tentative plans call for the coffee shop to open at 5:30 a.m. and close at 9 or 10 p.m.
Cairo said that a planned six-foot fence would “deafen the sounds by 80 percent” and that he is looking into a new type of speakers which one only hears “if directly in front” of it.
Starbucks director of store development Dean Klein said that the site plan was configured “to hold the maximum number of cars on site” in order to prevent backups onto the roadways and that being a good neighbor wold be a priority for the store.
“We are very well aware we abut a residential neighborhood,” Klein said.
Resident Shari Centrone testified that the project was inappropriate for the site given that the CTA terminal acts as a “natural barrier” to businesses along Harlem, which is primarily commercial to the south of the development site and residential to the north. She added that the Starbucks would “add distractions” to an already congested, dangerous intersection, where a motorcyclist recently was killed in an accident.
Centrone said after the meeting that on behalf of Norwood Park Citizens Action she was sending a letter to the zoning board asking that the “yes” vote of a board member be set aside because of a potential conflict of interest. If the vote were set aside, it would result in a 2 -2 tie vote, meaning that the proposal would not be approved, Centrone said.
Members of legislative and judicial boards typically recuse themselves from a vote only when they have a direct financial interest in a project.
Also at the meeting, the board approved a special use request to allow ground-floor residential use in a B3-2 business district for the construction of a framed four-flat at 4013-15 N. Pulaski Road, where in recent years a medical office and a daycare center have been located.
Each unit would have three bedrooms, two bathrooms, in-unit laundry facilities and an outdoor deck or patio, and there would be four on-site parking spaces. The developer is Tim Pomaville of Ambrosia Homes.
The board also continued until Friday, Dec. 17, a hearing on a special use request to establish a permanent makeup and body art facility at 4360 N. Milwaukee Ave. (Unit 1) and dismissed a variation application to expand an existing non-conforming tavern use at 4644 N. Central Ave. to allow retail food/pizza service.