Wilmette, News

McDonald’s satisfies Wilmette zoning board — barely

Proposal moves to Wilmette Village Board. Meeting planned for January.

Wilmette zoning commissioners found just enough of an appetite for McDonald’s plans to bring its iconic golden arches to a vacant site in the village. 

The Zoning Board of Appeals narrowly voted, 4-3, during its Wednesday, Dec. 6 meeting to recommend approval of the fast-food giant’s special-use request to build a McDonald’s restaurant, with a drive-thru, on the former Baker’s Square site at 200 Skokie Blvd.

The proposal will now head to Wilmette’s Village Board for review and is tentatively scheduled for consideration on Tuesday, Jan. 9, according to officials. 

Commissioners also unanimously approved a second motion at the meeting that recommends the hours of operation at the potential McDonald’s be limited to 10 p.m. 

Initial plans from the global brand included hours of 5:30-1:30 a.m. seven days of week, according to village documents. McDonald’s locations on Waukegan Road in Glenview and Dempster Street in Evanston, the two closest drive-thrus to this proposed site, close at 9 and 11 p.m. respectively. 

As previously reported by The Record, Wilmette officials announced in June that the property had been leased. Officials then months later said they were expecting a formal zoning application for a McDonald’s restaurant before the end of 2023. 

McDonald’s proposal calls for the construction of a 4,100-square-foot restaurant with a drive-thru at the property at the northeast corner of Skokie Boulevard and Old Glenview Road, which has been vacant since Baker’s Square’s departure in 2019. 

Since plans were first introduced this summer, neighbors have expressed concerns about potential negative effects of the project, such as parking congestion, traffic management, safety, noise, environmental pollution, and cohesion within the neighborhood. 

The zoning board’s consideration of McDonald’s request was the first public review of the company’s vision for a Wilmette location. 

Representatives of the multinational fast-food chain walked commissioners through additional details of the proposal during the Dec. 6 meeting. 

The parking lot included in the proposed site will have 28 parking stallsm and the drive-thru could accommodate 17 stacked cars, representatives said at the meeting. Between 15 and 18 employees are expected to be on site per shift.

McDonald’s officials are estimating the Wilmette location could see approximately 1,000 transactions per day. Between 70-80 percent of visitors are expected to utilize the drive-thru, which was an aspect of the proposal that drew concern from both residents and commissioners. 

Project plans show that the drive-thru is planned for the west, south and east sides of the building and would include three windows. 

Jim Olguin, of Olguin Law, the firm that submitted McDonald’s zoning application, said that the location will feature McDonald’s “most efficient” drive-thru configuration: the side-by-side dual driveway 

Olguin described McDonald’s as the “leader in drive-thru technology,” adding that the “the dual-drive system that we have here is really the top of the line system that McDonald’s operates.” 

“The idea is to keep the drive-thru moving to minimize or limit the stacking that would be required and work the most efficient site possible,” he said. 

Hours of operation, environmental impact and traffic concerns were also hesitations with the proposal that commissioners detailed in length. 

In its deliberations following McDonald’s presentation and public comment, the board quickly came to a consensus that the proposal of operating until 1:30 a.m. was a key issue it could not overlook. Commissioner Karl Camillucci motioned to include a time-change amendment, which passed via a 7-0 vote. 

Commissioner Bradley Falkof was the first on the board to share his perspective, noting that he did have concerns about “pollution, the noise, hours of operation and the impact that will have on the neighboring residents as well as the property values.” 

Joining Falkof in casting votes in dissent of the proposal were Christine Norrick and Maria Urban. Commissioners Camillucci, Didier Glattard and Ryrie Pellaton and board chair Reinhard Schneider voted in support. 

Norrick said she was primarily concerned about traffic management and the drive-thru. 

“The traffic and the drive-thru coming within such close proximity to those neighboring residential homes really just sort of sticks in mind,” she said. “It’s just not a good thing.” 

Urban’s main issue was also related to the traffic load, noting a belief that the requested use could “overburden” the several residential pockets around it. She added that she did not envision the benefits of the proposal but does “see a lot of drawbacks.”

Camillucci rooted his support in his view that the location of the proposed McDonald’s is the “beginning of a pretty well-established commercial strip in the villages.” 

Similarly, Glattard noted that “any kind of use that is going to go here is going to be a high-intensity use.” 

“The property value, the size of it, is not going to attract a low-intensity use,” he said. “It has a lot of traffic going past it and I think the McDonald’s plan has put a lot of thought into how to address the neighbors as best as they can. I understand that there’s no way they can completely protect the neighboring residential properties but that’s one of the hardships you have when you live next to a retail property. 

“I think it will be nice to get rid of a vacant lot in our city and it has been vacant for a long time, probably because it’s too small for some things and too big for others. It looks like this is the size of a site that fits perfectly for what they’re trying to do.” 

Public comment: ‘Potentially a step backward’

The public comment portion of the meeting included remarks from 10 residents, nine of whom spoke in opposition of the proposal. Prior to the meeting, dozens of email correspondences, the majority of which opposed the project, were submitted to village officials. 

Resident David Levy, who lives nearby in the 200 block of Charles Place, called McDonald’s plans “potentially a step backwards for this village.”

“We feel this is better suited for an exit off of I-55 (an interstate that runs from Chicago through rural, central Illinois) than it is the village of Wilmette and certainly our neighborhood,” he said. 

Martin Lieberman, a resident of Sunset Drive, said the proposal has him “quite upset.” He added that he believed the traffic study conducted did not properly account for the impact that will be created by the upcoming redevelopment project at Old Orchard shopping center and the opening of Wayfair’s retail store inside Edens Plaza. 

“I implore you to prioritize the welfare of the community over the potential revenue of a fast-food restaurant,” he told the board. 

Wilmette resident Mark Weyermuller spoke in favor of the project, saying he supported new businesses coming to the village.

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martin carlino
Martin Carlino

Martin Carlino is a co-founder and the senior editor who assigns and edits The Record stories, while also bylining articles every week. Martin is an experienced and award-winning education reporter who was the editor of The Northbrook Tower.

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