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Residents share concerns about proposed Dunkin’; Flossmoor moves forward with plans

A Dunkin’/Baskin Robbins is coming to the northwest corner of Vollmer Road and Central Park Avenue in Flossmoor, despite the protests of some residents who live in the Park Place subdivision to the northeast of that corner.

The Flossmoor Village Board on Monday, June 7, voted unanimously to approve the preliminary/final plan and special use for a restaurant with a drive-thru at 3608 Vollmer Road. The board also voted unanimously to approve a resolution supporting a Class 8 tax incentive for the establishment.

“This is probably the best place for an establishment like Dunkin’ Donuts,” Trustee Joni Bradley-Scott said. “It should be minimally invasive, if at all.”

The property, which is largely vacant, is owned by the Village of Flossmoor, under contract with the petitioner. There are office complexes to the south of Vollmer Road, more vacant property to the west, residential and vacant property to the north, and residential townhouses to the east of Central Park Avenue.

The parcel is zoned for commercial use; that it may be developed for those purposes is not in and of itself among the concerns cited by Betty Walker-Ward, president of the Park Place Homeowners Association. Walker-Ward presented a petition from residents opposed to the project and offered a show of hands from 10-12 residents who attended the meeting with her. Two of them also spoke against the project.

“We are a senior community,” Walker-Ward said. “We have contributed to the well-being of Flossmoor by paying our taxes, supporting the schools, library, businesses for over 25 years. However, unfortunately, we once again are here faced with the same problem as we were two years ago: opposing an attempt to build a Dunkin’ Donuts practically in our front door. We cannot understand why or how Flossmoor could or would let this happen.”

The village’s Plan Commission held a public hearing in December 2018 regarding a conceptual plan for the development of a 2,500-square-foot single-story restaurant and drive-thru, according to a report by Scott Bugner, Flossmoor’s building and zoning administrator. At the time, the commission voted 3-2 to deny the request, citing concerns about how the business would incorporate access with the larger development area to the west.

But the petitioner, Shailesh Shah, asked that the village board hear the request. And in January 2019, the board of trustees approved the concept plan for a Dunkin’/Baskin Robbins restaurant, citing it as an important addition to the village’s commercial offerings and one that could spur further development in that area of Flossmoor, Bugner said.

The project was delayed both by the COVID-19 pandemic and permitting issues involving the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways. Those permits have since been approved by both agencies, leading to the preliminary and final plans, Bugner said. The Plan Commission ultimately voted 4-0 in favor of the plans, special use and exceptions, after three residents spoke in opposition to the project because of the proposed location and concerns regarding additional traffic.

The final plan calls for a total of 20 parking spaces, with a proposed drive-thru designed to stack 10 vehicles. Bugner said staff’s review of the project notes much of it meets the village’s requirements, though proposed signage on the east elevation of the building would exceed zoning regulations for side wall signs. Flossmoor typically allows a maximum side wall sign facing a street to be 50 square feet, while Dunkin’/Baskin Robbins has proposed an 80-square-foot area, which necessitates an exception.

Walker-Ward said she is concerned about safety, property values, too much noise and activity in a small area, lines that could create difficulty with traffic in the area, lights coming through residents’ windows, and a large restaurant sign. She encouraged the development to move farther west on Vollmer Road. She said she understands that a business eventually will be erected in the proposed space, and that the village has to operate with revenues from both property taxes and businesses combined.

“What we don’t understand is why would Flossmoor, as we have known it, allow a fast food, high-traffic establishment like a Dunkin’ Donuts to be built in our small, residential neighborhood,” she said. “We’re a quaint and quiet community. And such action would negatively — and I mean negatively — impact the fabric of our neighborhood tremendously.”

Trustee Perry Hoag said he does not think there will be “significant” public safety issues brought about by this development. He also noted there are bushes in the design to help screen the property from the residential area. And the architect added the drive-thru ordering will not take place facing the residential area, which should alleviate noise concerns.

“I appreciate the concerns,” Hoag said. “If I lived there, I very well may be in your shoes, as well, here protesting this. I do think this is an opportunity the village should take. … I think this could be a very significant form of revenue for the village.”

The business is expected to cost $1.2 million to build, providing 20 construction jobs, and then 15 new permanent full-time jobs and 5-8 part-time positions when it opens. It has the potential to generate roughly $250,000 in tax revenue over the first 10 years with Class 8 in place. Class 8 property tax reduction was established by Cook County to encourage commercial development in areas experiencing “severe economic stagnation,” according to a bulletin regarding the designation. It offers a reduced assessment on real estate for a period of 12 years.

“I think it probably is not going to be as bad as you may be perceiving it now,” Hoag added of concerns.

Bradley-Scott noted there probably would be an increased police presence in the area after the new business opens. Police Chief Tod Kamleiter noted that with all new developments, his department sends officers to watch for capacity, traffic and other safety issues.

“We’re prepared to do that in this case, as well,” he said.

Trustee George Lofton noted he was in a similar position as the Park Place residents when Meijer was being proposed. He said his concerns, like these, were “legitimate,” such as lights, traffic and reduction in property values. But he said those issues never materialized.

“I think in the long run we’re all very pleased to have Meijer as a business neighbor,” Lofton said. “I’m on both sides of this. I fully appreciate your concerns.”

Trustee James Mitros added that the Meijer development turned out to be a godsend for the village’s finances, serving as a major source of funds that helps to keep property taxes down.

“A lot of these issues are things that were brought up when the Meijer development was being proposed,” he said. “Fortunately, that development turned out very well, I think because of the due diligence of this board. It turned out to be a very big success.

“I think what we have to do is move forward — I’m in favor of this — and keep an eye on it. We have a good plan. I’m confident we can achieve a good result.”

Lofton said he would like to make sure signage is not a hindrance. He and Trustee Gary Daggett added that a school bus stop near there is a concern if there are complications with traffic in the area because of the development. Daggett also suggested the village consider turnaround limitations in that neighborhood for traffic.

“I could see there could be some issues with that line,” Daggett said. “Those are two things I can definitely see as legitimate concerns. I think it would be important to have a plan on how to deal with those, if and when they come up.”

Lofton said he wants to see the concerns of the board and residents addressed, but he also noted there are 30 acres in that area designated for commercial use. He said this is likely the start of things to come.

Trustee Brian Driscoll added that the project cannot simply move farther west, as there are plans for that space, too. He said this project has come before the Plan Commission and village board a number of times.

Mayor Michelle Nelson said she understands residents’ concerns but added that Flossmoor established a comprehensive plan in 1986, 10 years before Park Place was built. And it identified Central Park Avenue and Vollmer Road among the places for office and commercial buildings.

“That is something that has been in our plan as a village for the past 35 years, and that is something as a village board we need to take into consideration,” she said. 

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