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HomeResturants/DiningWilmette zoning board reluctantly approves McDonald's proposal

Wilmette zoning board reluctantly approves McDonald’s proposal

Wilmette zoning commissioners found barely enough of an appetite for McDonald’s plans to bring its iconic golden arches to a vacant site within the village. 

The Zoning Board of Appeals narrowly voted, 4-3, during its Wednesday, Dec. 6 meeting to recommend approval of the fast-food giant’s special-use request to construct a McDonald’s restaurant, with a drive-thru, on the previous Baker’s Square site at 200 Skokie Blvd. 

The proposal will now head to Wilmette’s Village Board for review and is tentatively scheduled for consideration on Tuesday, Jan. 9, based on officials. 

Commissioners also unanimously approved a second motion on the meeting that recommends the hours of operation on the potential McDonald’s be limited to 10 p.m. 

Initial plans from the worldwide brand included hours of 5:30-1:30 a.m. seven days of week, based on village documents. McDonald’s locations on Waukegan Road in Glenview and Dempster Street in Evanston, the 2 closest drive-thrus to this proposed site, close at 9 and 11 p.m. respectively. 

As previously reported by The Record, Wilmette officials announced in June that the property had been leased. Officials then months later said they were expecting a proper zoning application for a McDonald’s restaurant before the tip of 2023. 

McDonald’s proposal calls for the development of a 4,100-square-foot restaurant with a drive-thru on the property on the northeast corner of Skokie Boulevard and Old Glenview Road, which has been vacant since Baker’s Square’s departure in 2019. 

Since plans were first introduced this summer, neighbors have expressed concerns about potential negative effects of the project, comparable to parking congestion, traffic management, safety, noise, environmental pollution, and cohesion inside the neighborhood. 

The zoning board’s consideration of McDonald’s request was the primary public review of the corporate’s vision for a Wilmette location. 

Representatives of the multinational fast-food chain walked commissioners through additional details of the proposal through the Dec. 6 meeting. 

The parking zone included within the proposed site may have 28 parking stalls and the drive-thru could accommodate 17 stacked cars, representatives said on the meeting. Between 15 and 18 employees are expected to be on site per shift. 

McDonald’s officials are estimating the Wilmette location could see roughly 1,000 transactions per day. Between 70-80 percent of holiday makers are expected to utilize the drive-thru, which was a facet of the proposal that drew concern from each residents and commissioners. 

Project plans show that the drive-thru is planned for the west, south and east sides of the constructing and would come with three windows. 

Jim Olguin, of Olguin Law, the firm that submitted McDonald’s zoning application, said that the situation will feature McDonald’s “most effective” drive-thru configuration: the side-by-side dual driveway 

Olguin described McDonald’s because the “leader in drive-thru technology,” adding that the “the dual-drive system that we now have here is actually the highest of the road system that McDonald’s operates.” 

“The concept is to maintain the drive-thru moving to reduce or limit the stacking that may be required and work probably the most efficient site possible,” he said. 

Hours of operation, environmental impact and traffic concerns were also hesitations with the proposal that commissioners detailed in length. 

In its deliberations following McDonald’s presentation and public comment, the board quickly got here to a consensus that the proposal of operating until 1:30 a.m. was a key issue it couldn’t overlook. Commissioner Karl Camillucci motioned to incorporate a time-change amendment, which passed via a 7-0 vote. 

Commissioner Bradley Falkof was the primary on the board to share his perspective, noting that he did have concerns about “pollution, the noise, hours of operation and the impact that may have on the neighboring residents in addition to the property values.” 

Joining Falkof in casting votes in dissent of the proposal were Christine Norrick and Maria Urban. Commissioners Camillucci, Didier Glattard and Ryrie Pellaton and board chair Reinhard Schneider voted in support. 

Norrick said she was primarily concerned about traffic management and the drive-thru. 

“The traffic and the drive-thru coming inside such close proximity to those neighboring residential homes really just form of sticks in mind,” she said. “It’s just not an excellent thing.” 

Urban’s primary issue was also related to the traffic load, noting a belief that the requested use could “overburden” the several residential pockets around it. She added that she didn’t envision the advantages of the proposal but does “see a number of drawbacks.” 

Camillucci rooted his support in his view that the situation of the proposed McDonald’s is the “starting of a reasonably well-established business strip within the villages.” 

Similarly, Glattard noted that “any form of use that’s going to go here goes to be a high-intensity use.” 

“The property value, the scale of it, shouldn’t be going to draw a low-intensity use,” he said. “It has a number of traffic going past it and I feel the McDonald’s plan has put a number of thought into methods to address the neighbors as best as they will. I understand that there’s no way they will completely protect the neighboring residential properties but that’s certainly one of the hardships you’ve gotten whenever you live next to a retail property. 

“I feel it is going to be nice to do away with a vacant lot in our city and it has been vacant for a very long time, probably since it’s too small for some things and too big for others. It looks like that is the scale of a site that matches perfectly for what they’re attempting to do.” 

Public comment: ‘Potentially a step backward’

The general public comment portion of the meeting included remarks from 10 residents, nine of whom spoke in opposition of the proposal. Prior to the meeting, dozens of email correspondences, the vast majority of which opposed the project, were submitted to village officials. 

Resident David Levy, who lives nearby within the 200 block of Charles Place, called McDonald’s plans “potentially a step backwards for this village.” 

“We feel this is best suited to an exit off of I-55 (an interstate that runs from Chicago through rural, central Illinois) than it’s the village of Wilmette and definitely our neighborhood,” he said. 

Martin Lieberman, a resident of Sunset Drive, said the proposal has him “quite upset.” He added that he believed the traffic study conducted didn’t properly account for the impact that can be created by the upcoming redevelopment project at Old Orchard shopping mall and the opening of Wayfair’s retail store inside Edens Plaza. 

“I implore you to prioritize the welfare of the community over the potential revenue of a fast-food restaurant,” he told the board. 

Wilmette resident Mark Weyermuller spoke in favor of the project, saying he supported latest businesses coming to the village. 

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