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Thorntons Inc. pulls bid for Route 31 gas station

McHENRY – In the wake of a public outcry, Thorntons Inc. on Thursday withdrew its application to build a gas station on Route 31, but said it will be back with another plan in months.

The City Council was scheduled to vote Monday on the proposal to put a Thorntons gas station at 1404 N. Richmond Road, which is zoned residential.

The Louisville, Ky.-based gasoline retailer plans to “come back with a better design in March or April,” said Mike MacKinnon, the company’s real estate manager. The site at the northeast corner of Richmond Road and Pearl Street will not change, he said.

Nearby residents and parishioners of St. Mary Catholic Church, which is across Richmond Road from the proposed site, organized a petition and campaign against Thorntons’ plan after a Planning and Zoning Commssion public hearing Jan. 17.

“We believe that we can address many of those concerns by modifying our development plan for the subject property,” MacKinnon said in a letter sent to city administrators Thursday.

Thorntons was seeking city approval for a zoning change, a conditional-use permit for a gas  station and variances for landscaping and parking.  

Pat Wirtz, a resident and chairman of the city’s Landmark Commission, has said a gas station does not belong in the neighborhood with historical homes. He and others expressed traffic safety concerns for pedestrians and schoolchildren attending Montini Catholic School, adjacent to St. Mary church at 1401 N. Richmond Road.

At a City Council meeting earlier this month, Beth Taylor, a District 156 school board member,  spoke against Thorntons’ proposal, asking city officials whether “the history of this neighborhood and its future worth risking in exchange for some possibly promising sales tax revenues.”

“I realize how important strong sales tax revenues are to a community,” she said at the Feb. 4 meeting. “But a safe neighborhood and a strong real-estate tax base are equally important.”

Thorntons estimated to city officials that the business would produce $300,000 to $350,000 a year in tax revenue for the city.

MacKinnon said Thorntons “is trying to find the best situation to become a part of the community.”

“We believe that substantial changes can be made to the architectural elevations of our proposed improvement and that modifications can be made to the site plan that will be designed to improve traffic flow and enhance pedestrian safety,” he said.

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