Wilmette, News

Opposition to Wilmette McDonald’s intensifies in advance of Village Board consideration

Neighbors to a proposed McDonald’s location have super-sized their opposition efforts as the Wilmette Village Board prepares to consider plans for the fast-food restaurant.

A group of the residents met with Chicagoland media on Wednesday, Jan. 3, when they detailed their concerns during a demonstration outside the site, 200 Skokie Blvd.

Kathryn Bauer, a nearby resident speaking for the group, said the neighbors “decided to be more proactive” after Wilmette’s zoning board recommended McDonald’s plans by a one-vote margin, 4-3, on Dec. 6.

“We assumed given the requirements under a special-use application that the zoning board would turn it down. They didn’t, which we were shocked by,” Bauer said.

Bauer and company started a pair of petitions — one online and one not. They have garnered more than 500 and more than 200 signatures, respectively, as of press time. And the residents set up Wednesday’s protest and press conference, which was attended by Chicago’s CBS News and Fox News, among others.

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.

The property nearly became another restaurant, Murray Bros. Caddyshack, recently, but in 2022 ownership scrapped the idea, which was also protested by some neighbors.

McDonald’s acquired the site in early 2023. In a memo to the Village Board in June 2023, Asst. Director of Community Development Lucas Sivertsen wrote that the Village had been aware of the fast-food giant’s interest in the site since at least November 2022. Village Manager Mike Braiman noted at the time that in initial conversations neighbors were “universally” opposed to McDonald’s.

Bauer reiterated on Wednesday that neighbors are concerned about air and noise pollution, traffic safety, property values and community character.

“The fear is … this opens the door for every other fast-food chain to open in Wilmette,” she said. “If another one wants to come in, how do you say no. This decision could forever change the character of Wilmette.”

McDonald’s proposal will carry a positive zoning recommendation into the Wilmette Village Board on Tuesday, Jan. 9, when trustees will consider the restaurant’s request for variances associated with its special use permit.

Braiman said the board will “carefully and thoughtfully consider the input of residents” during its consideration of McDonald’s request.

McDonald’s Wilmette plans

In Wilmette, McDonald’s plans to have two access points from Skokie Boulevard. The northern entry would allow full incoming and outgoing traffic, while the southern one will be a right-in, right-out drive.

The parking lot included would have 28 parking stalls and the drive-thru could accommodate 17 stacked cars, McDonald’s representatives said in December. Between 15 and 18 employees are expected to be on site per shift.

Restaurant 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, an aspect of the plan that has drawn the most concern from both residents and Wilmette officials. 

The drive-thru is planned for the west, south and east sides of the building and would feature dual ordering lanes (south) and two payment windows (east) at the side closest to lot lines of homes on Sunset Drive.

In its deliberations following McDonald’s presentation in December, Wilmette zoning commissioners quickly came to a consensus that the original proposal of operating until 1:30 a.m. was a key issue it could not overlook. Commissioner Karl Camillucci motioned to include a 10 p.m. time-change amendment, which passed via a 7-0 vote. 

McDonald’s application included a third-party traffic study that showed peak traffic near the intersection occurs between 7:30-8:30 a.m., noon-1 p.m. and 5-6 p.m. on weekdays, and 12:30-1:30 p.m. on weekends.

During these times, the study estimated McDonald’s could welcome: 90 cars (in and out) on weekday mornings, 115 on weekday afternoons, 70 on weekday evenings and 116 on weekend afternoons. Up to 50 percent of that traffic would be from impromptu customers, referred to as “pass-by traffic,” that would mitigate the traffic’s effect, the study reports.

While Wilmette has a Subway location, it does have any drive-thru fast-food options; though, the town does have multiple Starbucks locations, including one with a a drive-thru, and fast-casual chains, such as Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Panda Express, Jimmy John’s and Dairy Queen.

Nearby McDonald’s locations are on Green Bay Road in Winnetka (no drive-thru) and on Dempster Street in Skokie and Evanston.

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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