In a Jan. 8 meeting, the Oak Park Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) voted to continue the hearing for the proposed Taco Bell franchise location on Roosevelt Road, so that applicant Ampler Development could conduct a traffic study.
Many community members voiced opposition to building a highly landscaped drive-thru Taco Bell restaurant at 6000 to 6020 Roosevelt Rd., saying it would create too much traffic on adjacent residential streets. The currently empty parcel was formerly a bank branch.
“I’m just very concerned about the flow of traffic going down Humphrey [Avenue] and also down Lyman [Avenue],” said resident Emily DiFrisco, who has three small children who like to walk in the neighborhood.
DiFrisco also expressed worry that trash from Taco Bell would make its way into nearby yards.
“We have Lucky Dog right across the street, and I pick up Lucky Dog trash in my yard every week,” she said. “I really don’t want Taco Bell trash in my yard as well.”
DiFrisco’s concerns were echoed by other community members who also spoke during public comment.
Marco Camacho, who also has small children, voiced apprehension at the proposed Taco Bell’s close vicinity to a liquor store and tavern on the Cicero side of Roosevelt Road.
“We get people that go to the liquor store and then cross Lyman [Avenue], and oftentimes our neighbors’ cars are hit, crashed in hit-and-runs, so that’s something that’s happened with the current set up that we have now,” Camacho said. “If we move forward with this Taco Bell proposal, I am sure that the traffic is going to increase on Lyman and Humphrey.”
The bars and liquor stores nearby combined with the proposed Taco Bell’s hours of operation posed a concern to Oak Park police.
“It would be, from our standpoint, a recommendation for the drive-thru to close at midnight not only Monday through Friday, but also through the weekends,” said Chief LaDon Reynolds. “Given the proximity of various liquor establishments and late-night taverns in some of the municipalities that neighbor us, we don’t want this to become a nuisance property.”
The community was not entirely in opposition to Ampler building a Taco Bell.
“I don’t think it’s fair to single Taco Bell out as being a traffic hazard,” said David Owens, who spoke out in support. “It’s a really busy street to begin with.”
Jim Kelly, who moved to the area in 1988, also gave his personal endorsement.
“That stretch of Roosevelt Road between Harvey [Avenue] and Austin [Boulevard] has been blighted ever since I moved here and probably before,” Kelly said. “It’s time for some project to ignite the possibility of further development along that stretch and along that blighted intersection.”
Kelly further warned that, should this fall through, another development opportunity may not present itself.
“That corner could languish for many, many years,” he said. “I don’t understand what people think would go there if not this.”
The ZBA tabled discussion on Ampler’s application for a special use permit for a drive-thru and directed Ampler to conduct a traffic study. The zoning board approved Ampler’s request to continue the hearing until its next meeting, Feb. 5.
The two zoning relief requests – a reduction in street frontage and in the number of windows the building is required to have – were also tabled until the next meeting.