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Vote ahead in McHenry on Route 31 gas station

Published: Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

McHENRY – A proposal to put a gas station on Route 31 is generating opposition from residents, a Catholic church and the chairman of the city’s Landmark Commission.

The McHenry City Council is scheduled to vote Feb. 18 on an application to build a Thorntons station at 1404 N. Richmond Road.

About 150 people attended a Planning and Zoning Commission hearing on the station this month.

St. Mary Catholic Church, 1401 N. Richmond Road, brought forth a petition against it, and others expressed concerns about traffic and school safety. Montini Catholic School is adjacent to the site.

The site currently is zoned residential.

Pat Wirtz, a longtime resident and chairman of the city’s Landmark Commission, said the proposed site is “not the location for it right in the middle of town like that.”

“You’re going to put a gas station in a historic neighborhood right across the street from a historic church,” Wirtz said. “What are you doing to the landscape of the city, the reasons why we all moved here?”

The Louisville, Ky.-based gasoline chain retailer needs city approval for a zoning change, a conditional-use permit for an automobile fueling station, and variances for landscaping and parking.

After the public hearing Jan. 17, the Planning and Zoning Commission voted, 3-2, in favor of the zoning change and conditional-use permit. Two members recused themselves, citing a conflict of interest.

A minimum of four Planning and Zoning votes is required to constitute an official recommendation to the City Council. Planning and Zoning voted 4-1 for the required variances and they go to the council as a recommendation.

A big selling point to city officials is the estimated $300,000 to $350,000 annual tax revenue a station would bring the city.

McHenry is working toward improving the nearby Route 31 and Route 120 intersection. The Illinois Department of Transportation project will widen and add traffic lanes.

“With new five-lane expansion of Richmond Road, extending the [commercial] zoning makes a lot of sense,” said Mike MacKinnon, real estate manager for Thorntons. “... We’ll continue to work with the neighbors and the city to get the plan right. But we believe it’s the right location for Thorntons. At the end of the day, it would be an asset for the community.”

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