Madison Street Taco Bell faces early opposition

Plan to be proposed to Zoning Board of Appeals on May 17

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb and trustees reminded residents Monday night that their referral of a proposed Taco Bell on Madison Street to the Zoning Board of Appeals is required under village code and is not a show of support for the proposal.

This followed passionate testimony from one resident, Jay Arbetman, who says plans for the drive-thru restaurant at the corner of Madison Street and Lyman Avenue will be "a terrible thing for our neighborhood."

"The last thing that I want in my neighborhood is a Taco Bell with a drive-thru," Arbetman said. "Now, I understand that you folks want to jump at the first chance to get a couple of bucks in the kitty and I can appreciate that, but to tell you the truth, put it on the other side of town."

It was the first public discussion of the proposed restaurant, which would take the place of an empty lot.

Village Attorney Paul Stephanides, prompted by Abu-Taleb, reminded the public at the village board meeting that the zoning ordinance uses "mandatory language" on making such referrals, meaning that the board and its commissions are required to consider such proposals once an application is submitted.

Bell American Group LLC and its builder, Hamilton Designs, must appear before the zoning board because it is requesting allowances from the zoning code permitting their company to build the restaurant closer to the lot line and to move the parking lot to the west side of the property, rather than the south side.

Village Planner Craig Failor told trustees that Bell American has worked with the village on site plan reviews and has compromised on design and other aspects of the project.

"Originally they had access onto Lyman Avenue into the drive-thru and into the parking lot," Failor said. "We worked with them to try to get all access off of Madison Street. They were very accepting of our recommendations.

"We also asked them through the Madison Street Coalition to do some improvements to the façade of the building, so it doesn't look like a typical, standard fast-food façade."

Arbetman says the restaurant will bring more traffic congestion and send more traffic down South Humphrey Avenue, where he lives.

"We already have people driving up and down Humphry way too fast in the middle of the night," he said, later adding, "We don't need a Taco Bell. There's a McDonald's there and that's enough for me."

The Zoning Board of Appeals meeting is set for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 17 in the council chambers at Oak Park Village Hall, 123 Madison St.


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Kevin Peppard from Oak Park  

Posted: May 22nd, 2017 8:20 PM

Speaking of potential crime at late night Taco Bell Drive-thrus, two Indy 500 drivers in town for practice before next week's event just got held up at a late night Taco Bell drive-thru in Indianapolis:

Brooke Miller  

Posted: May 19th, 2017 12:12 PM

One more item of mounting concern for me is the fact that this Taco Bell is also planning on keeping their dining room open until 2 am... not only will near by residents need to worry about cars coming and going until 2 am but also late night loitering and the many disturbances that can result. I truly hope the ZBA and village board take these concerns to heart in making their decision.

Meg Bracco Liebreich from OakPark  

Posted: May 18th, 2017 9:48 PM

It's frustrating to those of us who live off Madison Street that the village seems to have little interest in our neighborhood. The best part of the OP has been its walk ability, the independently owned businesses and restaurants and the community feel. Now, They're stuffing giant condo/apt buildings in an already congested downtown OP, keeping NW OP "historic" and adding drive thru fast food on Madison, east of Ridgeland. Why can't we Move Wonderworks to Madison, develop a kids' sensory play space, add a cute coffee shop, cozy cafe or deli...this is a wonderful neighborhood full of families who want more for the future of 60304. When Madison east of Austin and West of Harlem look way better than between Oak Park and Austin, the village needs to step up.

Christine Vernon  

Posted: May 18th, 2017 1:25 PM

Too bad that happened, Kevin. Hard on the parents and the Lexus I would imagine and unfair to the Taco Bell franchise reputation.The Taco Bell on North Avenue in Melrose Park is the perfect example of a perfect location for a Taco Bell, too! It doesn't interfere with any residential neighborhoods because North Avenue IS a corridor of drive in and out businesses! from east of 1st Avenue all the way to Wolf Road. It works so well there!

Kevin Peppard from Oak Park  

Posted: May 18th, 2017 12:48 PM

The last time Oak Park was in turmoil about a late night drive-through at a Taco Bell was in 2000. See the following story: An Oak Park teen borrowed his father's Lexus to go to the Taco Bell in Melrose Park, for the late night munchies on the weekend. The next thing we know, he turned up in Nashville, claiming he had been carjacked and kidnapped near Thatcher Woods. The Nashville, Oak Park, and River Forest police departments were involved. The FBI was consulted but declined to get involved. The Husky Boosters and the associated athletes combed Thatcher Woods. It turned out it was all a hoax. Read the story to find out why this paper later removed its coverage.

Ci Ssa from Oak Park  

Posted: May 18th, 2017 12:15 PM

Oak Parkers don't want Madison St to become a fast food corridor. Thanks for you interested to move here but NO Taco Bell PLEASE!

Betsy Edgerton from Oak Park   

Posted: May 18th, 2017 11:00 AM

No Taco Bell, please. Consider the effect on those of us nearby: middle-of-the-night noise and traffic, cars speeding in alleys and streets and the potential for criminal activity. Between Jan. 1 and May 11, there were 100 police complaints regarding the McDonald's at 111 Madison for incidents that included complaints of domestic battery, theft, drug investigations, a person reported to have a gun, noise, suspicious autos and persons, disturbances and more. It's not a stretch to assume that a close-by fast-food restaurant with a late-night drive-through won't invite the same.

Christine Vernon  

Posted: May 17th, 2017 9:47 PM

Ray, and why was Madison Street a wasteland for so many years? Because owners and the Village were preparing for the day when redevelopment was coming, I am thinking of Dennis Marani's landscaping business and the property between Harvey and Highland on Madison, including the Funeral Home on Highland told to get out, and the houses in between torn down too, prepare for some grand and planned project.There are situations like that up and down Madison Street. No tenants needed because then it looks like blight and Village intervention is needed, wait long enough and the value of the property gets worth the owner selling because the density is tremendous and a lot line to lot line project is presented.. But when it comes to a restaurant, think anywhere in the Village, would residents rather have Maya del Sol at the end of their block or Taco Bell. A business owed by a fellow resident where the owner is on site overseeing and watching what's going on, or Taco Bell, a franchise with a drive-through that will likely be as much of a headache for the neighbors as McDonalds has been. Just say no to Taco Bell! The residents there are correct to refuse the idea of becoming Oak Park's Fast Food Corridor. No where else in Oak Park would that be accepted either. If you are a community that has and supports a Farmer's Market and people belong to food coops, etc., maybe you are a community not suited for fast food companies. Who determined that this idea, this company, would serving the needs of our community?

Dan Haley from Wednesday Journal Wednesday Journal Employee

Posted: May 17th, 2017 3:57 PM

Wednesday Journal's Tuesday Taco Crawl came from LaLayenda just yesterday. Pretty darned good tacos.

Brooke Miller  

Posted: May 17th, 2017 2:54 PM

Thank you for pointing out La Leyenda Taco, Rachel Carlson!! That place is GREAT, LOCAL and facing a scary future should Taco Bell open across the street.

Rachel Carlson Boultinghouse from Oak Park  

Posted: May 17th, 2017 2:28 PM

I am apposed to a drive thru taco bell. Enough with making Madison look like suburban sprawl wasteland. Drive thru cut out discourage walk-ability. If anyone does wants to walk to tacos on Madison they can walk to La Leyenda Taco, it's across the street from the lot Taco Bell wants. It is interesting to note how perfect the old tasty dog location would have been for taco bell as it is right by the high school. But that location will now be more luxury condos because really, who wants a 2 am drive thru backed up to their residential street?

John Butch Murtagh  

Posted: May 17th, 2017 1:35 PM

The Taco Bell is another Desperation for the village!!

Terry Grace from Oak Park  

Posted: May 17th, 2017 10:59 AM

I live a few blocks from the proposed site for Taco Bell. That site has been vacant for years. It has been an eyesore. The idea of a Taco Bell at that location makes sense. That said, it only makes sense if the Village makes Taco Bell adjust their outlook to fitting in productively with our community fabric. I absolutely don't want to see a mall version of TB in Oak Park. The parking should be in the back, NOT on the west. Taco Bell needs to adjust their design to our community, not vice versa. It should be pedestrian friendly. (McDonalds down the block is a prime example of what NOT to do.) They should be required to include very good landscaping. Trees to shade the parking IN THE BACK of the lot, energy efficiency with solar panels, and a friendly dining area out front. Only one curb cut on Madison. The building design needs to be much better than the nominal TB. So, you want to open up in Oak Park. You're welcome, IF you meet our standards.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: May 17th, 2017 9:39 AM

No quiero Taco Bell.

Kaidrea Stockman  

Posted: May 16th, 2017 11:19 PM

I live near the proposed site for the Taco Bell and no opposition from me! I've been to McDonalds at 2am and there were not a lot of people. Most bars are in Forest Park, so I really don't see all these people going to the far side of Oak Park late. Some had the same opposition to Dunkin Donuts. What else is going to go there? Really, tell me what you realistically expect will go there? Been waiting for something to come for years. Madison Highlands? Would really like more eating options around my house. Everything is near Harlem and Lake. Lived 30+ years in the area. No matter where you put a new fast food restaurant people are going to oppose it. I would love to walk to TB from my house. By the way, it was rated one of the healthiest fast food restaurants. :)

Brooke Miller  

Posted: May 16th, 2017 9:35 PM

I would not wish this development on ANY residential street in Oak Park. However, throwing the NIMBY insult at us that live in this area is not quite accurate... see, we already live with a McDonald's, a Dunkin Donuts and a Kentucky Fried Chicken in our backyards, side yards and front lawns. We are asking for not another one because we understand too well the negative effects these establishments can have.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: May 16th, 2017 6:49 PM

Madison St has been a commercial wasteland for 25 years. Any business would be an improvement over the sad commercial planning we have seen. In past eras auto dealerships were the anchors and was the BEST place in the western suburbs to find the family auto. Taco Bell might not be a cadi showroom but young kids would get a taste of getting a job and learning how to deal with customers and make change.

Barbara Joan  

Posted: May 16th, 2017 5:29 PM

" How delightfully NIMBY. People live "on the other side of town," too, and I'm pretty sure this is "the last thing they'd want in [their] neighborhood," too.".---EXACTLY! This is how the elite really think!

Alethea Demarais Hays from Oak park  

Posted: May 16th, 2017 4:59 PM

The comment "put it in the other side of town" I think is more of a NOT IN MY BACKYARD COMMENT. As you would not want it in your backyard either. The annual profit sales and therefore taxes given to the city from TB and therefore alleviation of taxes for homeowners in OP will be less than 5-6h$/household. Not worth the OP COMMUNITY. The large parkways and beautiful homes on the blocks directly affected by the Taco Bell traffic seems like this should be an absolute no even if it did provide tax alleviation. Drive through noise pollution 'till 2am, cars sitting in drive through pollution, late night hours, giant dumpster, and actual walk by traffic of late night Austin (the drug busts at McDonald's 1 block away are very high) seems like a tragic loss of quality of life for those in this part of OP. No one thought to put a brewery at Austin/Lake until now...looks like it will be a success. Maybe we should come up with the family friendly environment for Madison we were all hoping for. MY part of TOWN. And yours as well. Let's build it for OAK PARK. Not corporate fast food that don't care about our neighborhoods.

Mary Pikul  

Posted: May 16th, 2017 4:52 PM

Garett, I think Mr. Arbetman simply means that the neighborhood blocks clustered around Madison Street would like to have a lovely street near their home just as lovely as many of the streets on the north side of Oak Park do. But nearby Madison St. home-dwellers (may) feel that their voices have less weight in comparison to north side Oak Park when it comes to what businesses they want in their neighborhood.

Katina Smith from Oak Park  

Posted: May 16th, 2017 4:51 PM

No Taco Bell!!! There are more than enough fast food "diabetes" & "heart attack" restaurants in Oak Park. Oak Park is a snail village not a large city. There is no need for so many fast food restaurants within the square miles of Oak Park. Why doesn't the village bring businesses that promote health and wellness, learning and opportunity.

Garett Auriemma  

Posted: May 16th, 2017 12:48 PM

"The last thing that I want in my neighborhood is a Taco Bell with a drive-thru," Arbetman said. "...put it on the other side of town." So Mr. Arbetman doesn't want a Taco Bell by HIS house, but it's fine by someone else's? How delightfully NIMBY. People live "on the other side of town," too, and I'm pretty sure this is "the last thing they'd want in [their] neighborhood," too.

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