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.