The Arlington Heights village board late Monday unanimously turned down a plan to turn a long-standing mom-and-pop gas station into what they feared would become a high-volume station with more traffic.
Following a marathon 3-hour discussion during a meeting held virtually, the board unanimously denied a special-use permit for a Mariano's gas station on the site of the iconic Grandt's Shell service station at Northwest Highway and Belmont Avenue.
"That station is iconic. It was like Mayberry R.F.D.," said Trustee Jim Tinaglia. "I feel like Goober would come out and wash your windows and fill up your gas."
But of the Mariano's proposal, Tinaglia said: "Right now, this does not look like Mayberry to me anymore. ... This is not a neighborhood gas station. This is a destination gas station."
Many trustees said they were in favor of Mariano's proposal in concept -- which would encourage shoppers of the nearby grocery store to earn fuel rewards points -- but they hoped to see it built in a different location. In the end, the elected panel was sympathetic to arguments from many residents in the nearby Recreation Park neighborhood about the potential increase in traffic volumes -- perhaps by at least tenfold, under one estimate.
Plans called for demolition of the Grandt's service station and removal of its four existing gas pumps -- including one that still operates as a full-service pump. Five new pumps and a small retail sales kiosk were proposed on the 18,150-square-foot site.
The plan was strongly opposed by the Arlington Heights Park District, which has long-sought the property to be able to expand the neighboring park.
Park board President Maryfran Leno said the Mariano's station wouldn't be harmonious or compatible with the area. And despite negotiations that fell through previously, she promised to "work with the Grandt family to make sure a fair and equitable transaction occurs."
Park board Commissioner Rob Nesvacil said Monday the last best offer the district made owner Craig Grandt was $935,000, plus the removal of underground tanks and environmental cleanup.
But Grandt disputed that figure, saying the district offered 30% below what was finally taken with Mariano's. And he said the district was trying to "torpedo" the deal and put his retirement in jeopardy.
"If the park wanted it so bad, then the park should've anted up in final hour when they knew what it was being sold for, and they did not," Grandt said.
Noting that the village is a separate governmental entity from the park district, members of the village board said they did not base their decision on whether the site should be park property, but on the intensity of the proposed use.