McDonald’s came to the Naperville City Council Tuesday night seeking permission to build a restaurant near downtown, but councilmen just weren’t lovin’ it.
The City Council unanimously turned down the proposed fast-food restaurant at the southeast corner of Washington Street and Hillside Road citing concerns about traffic at an already busy intersection and locating a 24-hour business close to homes.
“It’s the parking the Cadillac in the closet scenario,” Councilman Grant Wehrli said. “It just doesn’t work.”
The restaurant would have replaced the Citgo gas station at the intersection. McDonald’s attorney Henry Stillwell told the council it had been downsized to conform with the small lot size.
The plans called for a right-in and right-out access on Washington and the opportunity to turn left or right when exiting onto Hillside Road. The restaurant went to the City Council asking for a handful of variances on landscaping, setback, signage and parking. The proposed lot would have had 31 spaces instead of the required 61.
The proposal was backed by both city staff and the plan commission. However, in a discussion that lasted more than an hour, councilmen focused on the potential for traffic tie-ups.
“You’re a victim of own success. And, unfortunately, I think it will cause more issues at that intersection, that area,” Councilman Paul Hinterlong said.
Councilman Steve Chirico said he was worried teens leaving the restaurant would turn right onto Washington, but then immediately try to get all the way over to the left turn lane to head west to Naperville Central High School.
“I’ve witnessed that, and I’ve seen how that can cause problems. And when you multiply that by 50 or 100 more vehicles that are going to be doing that, that’s going to be an issue,” he said.
He and others also said they thought traffic would get backed up on Washington as people tried to get in line for the drive through.
“It doesn’t take much of a blip to cause a backup, and there’s nothing worse than trying to make a train and being late for it because of something in that rush hour … that creates that blip,” said Councilman Bob Fieseler, a longtime commuter.
Four residents also spoke against the proposal. Lauren Buchanan, who lives a block away from the site, called the scenario a “traffic nightmare.”
“We really feel like we’re going to have an issue with vehicles traversing through our neighborhoods, turning around in our driveways,” she said.
Addressing the myriad of traffic concerns, William Grieve, a traffic engineer hired by McDonald’s, said a traffic study showed travel time through the intersection would only increase by about a second and double drive-through lanes would prevent backups. Stillwell said the company would be diligent about addressing any problems if they arise.
“If in fact you end up with traffic problems and you have frustrated customers, that is going to impact the operation of that business, plain and simple,” Stillwell said. “McDonald’s cannot afford to have design that doesn’t function effectively.”
But traffic wasn’t the only concern. Neighbors said they feared there would be increased noise and lights coming from the restaurant if it was allowed to stay open 24 hours as proposed.
Both Judy Brodhead and Joe McElroywere among the councilmen who agreed and said having a restaurant open 24 hours so close to homes was a deal-breaker regardless of the traffic issues.
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