Neighbors plan to fight a proposed drive-through bank facility on the 800 block of South Oak Park Avenue that they believe will add traffic to an already busy alley, impede their access to their alley garages, and threaten safety of pedestrians in the area. The matter will come before the Plan Commission Thursday night.
Community Bank Oak Park-River Forest purchased 809 S. Oak Park Ave.?#34;the former home of Curran Glass Studio?#34;with plans to build an approximately 2,000-square-foot full-service branch with two drive-up lanes. It would be the third drive-up bank within one block.
“We will address those concerns to the best of our ability,” said Community Bank President Martin Noll, who said he will propose alley improvements as a means of reaching out to neighbors.
Noll said village laws allow the bank to use the alley?#34;that no permission needs to be granted?#34;but that the bank needed to be careful, not cause a hazard, and be “gentlemanly” about its new use.
But the relationship between the bank and neighbors?#34;especially those on the 800 block of South Grove whose garages are accessed through the alley that the bank’s customers would use to enter the drive-up facility?#34;might have gotten off to a slow start Tuesday night.
The bank scheduled a meeting with neighbors to address their concerns. However, many residents were turned off by the invitation, which framed the event as being somewhat social, with appetizers and refreshments offered.
“We don’t think this is a situation to chit-chat over,” said Debbie Bray, whose garage is directly across the alley from the proposed bank site. Bray said on Monday that many neighbors planned not to attend the event.
Another homeowner on the block, Michael Murphy, said he didn’t want to attend the event because it would only help the bank prepare its arguments against neighbors.
“It irks me someone would go knocking down buildings before talking to the community,” Murphy said. “They could have had this meeting two months ago instead of two days before the [hearing].”
“We did that because we thought it made sense to have all of the information in everyone’s hands all at one time,” Noll said, adding that a traffic study?#34;a requirement for the bank as part of its application?#34;was not completed until early October. “We couldn’t have done anything a month ago.”
Noll said the KLOA Inc. (the firm used by the village) traffic study will show that the alley between Harrison and Van Buren will accommodate the number of cars the branch location will attract.
Also, the property will be able to fit up to seven cars using or waiting to use the facility. That’s more than the number of cars the bank would expect at any one time, Noll said.
“How does he know that? Does he have a crystal ball he can look at and tell that?” Bray asked. “I’m afraid I don’t trust that.”
“That’s one person’s study,” Murphy said.
Bray said the alley is already heavily used by delivery trucks going to and from The Avenue restaurant, and is small?#34;she has to make a three-point turn to get her van out of her garage. Also, her son uses a wheelchair, and unloading him requires the use of a fold-out ramp.
“We need space to do that,” Bray said. “And I don’t know how we could do that if there’s a drive-through bank across the alley.”
Neighbors obtained a copy of the bank’s building plan and met Oct. 8 to review it. Bray said five neighbors attended the meeting, but that others wanted to be there and would attend Thursday’s hearing.
Noll will propose a number of measures to mitigate neighbors’ concerns, including encouraging customers to use the northern portion of the alley to get to the bank, striping and wide-open views to improve safety when exiting cars cross the sidewalk and turn right onto Oak Park Avenue.
“It is our intent to address issues and solve issues rather than make it a black-and-white issue where there’s winners and losers,” Noll said.
Once the hearing is complete?#34;which may take more than one session?#34;the Plan Commission will recommend whether the special use permit required for the drive-up should be approved. The final decision will be made by the village board. Thursday’s meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. at village hall.