Naperville cites traffic concerns and proximity to a residential area in rejecting McDonald’s near downtown

Naperville’s City Council voted Tuesday against a proposal from McDonald’s to build a restaurant just south of downtown. The cited reasons: traffic and proximity to a residential area.

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…

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…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…

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.

I’m not surprised by this result: not too many residents would willingly choose to have a McDonald’s nearby and few people want more traffic. However, this seems a bit strange for a few reasons:

1. Washington is already a fairly busy road.

2. This intersection is near homes but there are already strip mall type establishments at this corner. In fact, I’m not sure there any homes that back up directly to this site as the DuPage River is to the east and all of the corners at the intersection are already occupied. The McDonald’s would replace a Citgo gas station, not exactly a paragon of civic architecture. Across the street is a Brown’s Chicken establishment. The other two corners include a cemetery and another strip mall type establishment.

3. The traffic study from McDonald’s seems to suggest there wouldn’t be any issues.

4. I wondered if this had anything to do with protecting the downtown but it is three blocks south of the downtown so it shouldn’t contribute to congestion problems there.

I wonder if there isn’t more to this story. Indeed, here are a few more details from the Daily Herald:

Council members admitted they were initially thrilled that McDonald’s wanted to open a downtown store on the southeast corner of Hillside and Washington streets. But when it came down to a plan that included five zoning variances, three landscape variances and a sign variance, they just weren’t lovin’ it.

So the McDonald’s required too many deviations from Naperville’s guidelines? While the restaurant might have needed 9 variances, the city could have made it happen if they really wanted to. Just how much did the pressure from the neighborhood matter?

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