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Gas station debate put on hold

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

McHENRY – The City Council adjourned Monday on an anticlimactic note, days after a gas station chain withdrew its business application from the agenda.

Late Thursday, Thorntons Inc. pulled its application to build a gas station on Route 31 from the council’s original agenda after a public outcry. Before the withdrawal, Monday night’s meeting was anticipated to draw hundreds to the municipal complex, 333 S. Green St.

The truncated agenda dealt with liquor license requests and fee waivers for upcoming public events, all receiving unanimous council approval.

Thorntons’ proposal to build a 24-hour gas station generated opposition for weeks from neighbors of the proposed site at 1404 N. Richmond Road, which is currently zoned residential. The Louisville, Ky.-based gasoline retailer has indicated it plans to “come back with a better design in March or April,” but not change the location, Mike MacKinnon – company real estate manager – said last week.

“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 in a letter to city administrators.

Resident Don Allen spoke Monday before the council, urging members to vote down Thorntons’ plan as long as it seeks the same location.

“You can’t put lipstick on a pig because it’s not going to change the smell,” he said.

St. Mary Catholic Church, 1401 N. Richmond Road, led a petition drive, collecting thousands of signatures objecting to the plan. Critics have said a gas station should not be adjacent to an older residential neighborhood with historical buildings. Other concerns include traffic congestion and the safety of pedestrians and schoolchildren attending Montini Catholic Church.

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