Furious residents pack the Village board meeting to oppose gas station, but the board and its mayor pay them no heed, approving it unanimously
On April 24th, the Village board room had more people then chairs to seat them (a rare occurrence). Most were there to speak out against a new 12 pump gas station on Irving Park Road between Ozark and Overhill.
It was for naught. The Village government, under the control of the Norridge Improvement Party, didn’t even allow them to speak before they voted unanimously to ram through the zoning petition for a 24-hour gas station with convenience store, video gambling, and liquor.
Prior to the vote, some residents tried to speak out, but were silenced by Norridge Police Chief David Disselhorst.
It was an appalling, disrespectful and more importantly – undemocratic – slap in the face to Village residents.
Strong residential opposition
After the vote, residents took turns raking mayor James Chmura over the coals, followed by loud applause.
A professional geologist for the state of Illinois, Renee Wawczak who has several years of cleaning up leaking gas station sites, expressed her concerns over the gas station proposal.
“As somebody who has cleaned up these sites” she said “They all leak”. Underground storage tanks can leak causing contamination of storm and sanitary sewers, and travel through these systems where they “can release vapors into homes and businesses”.
“The Zoning department has not done their environmental due diligence” Wawczak added.
Ann Chmura (no relation to mayor James Chmura), sent a letter to the Village trustees asking them to postpone the meeting and the decision, which James Chmura and the board confirm that they have received and read.
Ann Chmura and the residents affected only had two weeks to mobilize on this issue. “We were given the opportunity to voice our concerns way too late in the decision process”, Ann Chmura added.
Despite that, they were able to obtain 106 signatures for a petition opposing the development.
Ms Chmura also criticized the Village’s lack of communication on this issue, saying “I didn’t hear about this” until later, further objecting to “the lack of transparency” throughout the process.
Edelweiss’s attorney Sam Amirante echoed the comments of other residents, saying “We don’t want the Village to move too quickly … further studies need to be done”.
“Edelweiss has been there for over 50 years, it’s been a tremendous business in the community, people is Norridge love it, people from all over come to it.”
“If that gas station is allowed to be built without further study how a gas station does affect the environment, children, and a restaurant right across the street from it … those issues have to be addressed by this board … please act prudently and with concern for all our issues”, Amirante said.
Linda Cowski expressed dismay over the 24 hour gas station, and convenience store that sells liquor.
She also expressed concern about the video gaming, “it was never really said if there was going to be a separate room for gaming?”
Cowski said parking will be an issue, and the fact that the gas station property will be allowed up to two feet close to the alley.
She objected to the zoning board claiming the gas station would not decrease their property values.
James Chmura responded that the Village hasn’t agreed to the 24 hours. Video gaming stops at midnight, and liquor sales ends at 2AM.
“We also have to discuss the streets and the turnoffs [onto Irving Park Road and / or the side streets] with them”, Chmura said.
“Why do you need video gaming in a gas station?” Cowski asked. “It’s very lucrative”, Chmura responded.
Cowski also spoke of traffic issues, “The traffic is going to just be horrific. You don’t live here, you don’t understand.”
Danny Defelice said condos would be better than a 24-hour gas station.
“What kind of suburb do we want to be? Do we want to be a suburb that has slot machines at gas stations or do we want to be more of a Park Ridge where things are a little more restrictive?” Defelice said.
Edelweiss owner Walt Kosch expressed concern with the crime that comes with putting in a gas station, “We’re concerned as corporate citizens next door about that kind of situation.”
“We think it is going to bring in a different type of element into our business, we’re very concerned about that, as well as how it is going to affect our neighbors” Kosch said.
Travis Aguilera said there are 11 children on the 4000 block of Overhill and is concerned about children’s safety.
He also thinks parking will be made worse with the new gas station as the 4000 block of Overhill is already getting overflow parking for Edelweiss.
Aguilera also objected to the Village moving forward so quickly.
“We got a petition … you guys just keep moving forward … we don’t appreciate it” Aguilera said.
Flo Wawczak asked if an environmental study was done on the land – there was none.
“Do you know the Village of Norridge Motto? Community, compassion, care and hope. That’s what all these people want, myself included”, she said.
Christine Wawrzynowicz said her block has problem now with speeding, no parking. “All we know is that we can’t park in front of our street now”.
She also objected to liquor and gambling sales.
“I have lived here 20-23 years, I love this place… to tell you the truth now, I can’t wait to get out. And a lot of people feel that way.”
“Because it seems like you don’t care about us, you care about the almighty buck, and it’s not right” Wawrzynowicz added.
Daisy Aguilera objected to the zoning petition being approved. “The zoning was put in this Village to protect this Village, but in one false move the zoning was changed.”
“Every gas station in the world brings a bad element … motorcycles … hot rods”.
“This nice, quiet neighborhood … has become the City of Chicago” Aguilera said. “We are losing sight of the Village that once was”.
Anthony Kaldis said he didn’t feel a gas station is the right way to go.
Cindy Tullio has a child with severe lung dysfunction and is concerned the vapors from the gas station will further adversely affect her health.
Bob Mrozek, who used to work at a gas station his father owned, said a gas station “does bring an element that that is undesirable, especially as the nighttime comes”.
“Who lives near the gas station?” Mrozek asked. “Who wants the gas station?”
“Who doesn’t want it?” All hands in the audience went up, and he got a standing ovation.
Unfortunately, what the people want, isn’t something that interests the current crop of Norridge politicians.
The lady said it best: they are only interested in The Almighty Buck.
Recording of the April 24 2019 Village of Norridge Board Meeting (full video – 1 hour 4 minutes)