Taco Bell headed for Madison Street in Oak Park

Bell American Group to present plan to Zoning Board of Appeals

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

The empty lots at the corner of Madison Street and Lyman Avenue could be home to a new Taco Bell fast-food restaurant before the end of 2017.

Bell American Group LLC, through its developer/builder Hamilton Designs, has requested a special-use permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals and will makes its case to the board on May 17 at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at Oak Park Village Hall, 123 Madison St.

Debera Johns, director of operations for Bell American, could not immediately be reached for comment.

A legal notice for the hearing notes that the restaurant would take up the empty lots from 500 to 508 S. Lyman Ave.

In addition to the drive-thru special-use permit, Bell American is seeking allowances that would permit the parking lot of the restaurant to be located to the west of the structure, rather than to the south as specified by the village's Madison Street zoning district plan. Bell American also is seeking relief on setback codes, which would allow the restaurant to take up more of the lot.

In Hamilton Designs' special-use permit application, the company argues that the Taco Bell "would result in the improvement of a dormant lot with a quick-serve restaurant facility with a drive-through component."

"The quick-serve restaurant market has seen a significant shift in customers who prefer to utilize a drive-through window rather than dining at the restaurant," the application states. "Approval of this petition would be desirable to the customer, would provide a service which is in the interest of the public convenience and will contribute to the general welfare of the neighborhood and community."

The application also notes that the restaurant "will improve the existing lot from a dormant, underutilized property to substantially improved lot."

"As a result, the value of the subject property is anticipated to substantially improve adjacent property values similarly," the application states.

Hamilton Designs noted that it does not anticipate adverse traffic impacts as a result of the drive-through.

The developer aims to have the project complete before the end of 2017, according to the application.

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

Reader Comments

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Jay Arbetman from Oak Park  

Posted: May 6th, 2017 3:41 PM

A restaurant with a drive thru on Madison?? This is just stupid. The village takes a great family neighborhood and drops a late night noisy drive thru right on the corner. There is no regard here for the poor folks living on the 500 S. block of Humphrey, Lyman and Taylor. No regard for there property values. No regard for neighborhood safety. It is just a case of a revenue stream being dropped into a neighborhood to benefit the wealthiest members of our village. Sounds like a Trumpian approach to village government.

Tom Alan from Oak Park  

Posted: May 5th, 2017 2:53 PM

I love how people are all up in arms about Taco bell because it could bring in the late night drinking crowd, but a bar at Austin and Lake, sure, let's do it. Ridiculous.

Christine Vernon  

Posted: May 3rd, 2017 1:00 PM

Ramona, you are so right. For years we have seen the approach that whatever the problem is...just throw money at it and it will go away. It never works that way, whether the money is the misspent $1.6 Million the Village paid in 2004 for the underperforming ill-fated, discontinued People Soft computer system or the double digit millions paid in taxpayer subsidies for Whiteco. (Parking at Trader Joe's is a nightmare!) Neither was a credit to the management of the Village of Oak Park. Where is the oversight? It would serve us well to watch the spending of our elected officials with care like smart families watch our own family budgets and economies. This past week there was an interview on the radio with a spokesperson for the Urban Land Institute who said that their research showed "People flock to places with historic buildings". and "Historic buildings are great incubators for small businesses. Demolition should be the option of last resort." We need less developers chomping at the bit to tear historic structures down when they could be repurposed...and we need to give tax breaks to those with the vision to take on such projects.. The people of Oak Park need to be driving the bus. It takes getting involved though and it is a sacrifice for people raising young families with school children to help with homework who need their parents to be home at night. If we don't participate and speak up though, there is no way elected officials are mind-readers and we can't be surprised when they go ahead with their own plans. As for safety at night near a Taco Bell, the reality is that we live along side one of the two areas of the City that have the highest crime rate. It's a reality that impacts our community and that needs to be a consideration in all we do to stay a healthy community and help our neighbors to have one, too.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: May 3rd, 2017 12:06 PM

Here in lies the problem when taxes skyrocket in Oak Park. Only corporate owned franchises can afford to move in. The property taxes on these 3 P.I.N.s will be about $55,000 per year if it is comparable to the property to the west of it. No individual or start up could possibly afford this. The same people who want the a business district similar to that on Madison in Forest Park are the same who support the ridiculous referendums that drive up property taxes and drive out locally owned establishments. Is this Taco Bell going to have a 24 hour drive through? If so, then I wouldn't want to be around there after 11PM.

Nick A Binotti  

Posted: May 3rd, 2017 8:21 AM

Flash back to 2011 (see: http://bit.ly/2qEQDY6): "The four lots on Lyman are zoned for commercial, and Park would be able to build most retail uses on the site "by right," without any zoning variances, according to Mike Bruce, zoning administrator for the village." Regarding traffic flow: where's the entrance, Lyman or Madison? If Madison, how will cars access to/from west-bound Madison with the landscaped median?

Christine Vernon  

Posted: May 2nd, 2017 11:06 PM

Tom and Jason, your positions come from a position of weakness. That has been the attitude for years coming out of Village Hall when the VMA was in charge...'things are so bad here, we have to take what we can get'.??!! Balderdash! All Oak Park plans should stem from the hopes and dreams of a good community and those representatives elected to help figure out how to make these worthwhile projects a reality. Nobody wants to kill capitalism here. We are looking to make a marriage between good and profitable businesses and healthy and safe neighborhoods. Don't say it can't be done! Taco Bell on North Avenue across from Winston Park works well there, but to deluge a neighborhood with driveways and traffic is to stress and ask too much of a neighborhood. You know it wouldn't fly in most parts of Oak Park on residential blocks..

Christine Vernon  

Posted: May 2nd, 2017 10:47 PM

Re: Neighbors on Madison concerned about the McDonald's should consider this. First, it repeatedly amazes me what a disadvantage it is not to have some idea of Oak Park history. For instance, here is something for neighbors of the McDonald's to think about that might help. Michael R. Quinlan served as a director of McDonald's Corporation, from 1979 until his retirement in 2002. He was the chairman of the board of directors of McDonald's from March 1990 to May 1999 and chief executive officer from March 1987 through July 1998. Apparently now, Quinlan is Chairman of Loyola University, Chicago. Guess where Michael Quinlan grew up...Taylor and Washington. In close proximity to the very neighborhood you see impacted by a McDonalds with an unsavory reputation. He received his education at St. Catherine of Siena (now St. Catherine/St. Lucy) and then he went to Fenwick. He is long gone from Oak Park but I am sure he would want children to have the same advantages he had growing up there. Our family was also at St. Catherine's and we enjoyed a safe neighborhood and the advantage of very good schools. It led to many successful careers for graduates. Approach Quinlan as a group and appeal to him to help bring the same quality control with regard to customers described in the movie "The Founder" where they were determined to keep the problem clientele away from their businesses. He is a person who believes in giving back. He and his wife have a reputation for their generous philanthropy.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: May 2nd, 2017 5:14 PM

Tom - I'm a small "l" libertarian and a capitalist. And there is nothing more than I would love than to have a Taco Bell, next to an Arby's, next to a Popeye's. It's a dream team to me. But we have something special in Oak Park. We care about where we live. We care about the future of this community. And if people feel something is detrimental to their neighborhood with sound reasons, then I will back them. There are more thoughtful ways to getting our fast food restaurants than building them willynilly. Once again, let's just think before we build.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: May 2nd, 2017 4:38 PM

Some people would rather have a vacant lot than a new restaurant. A handful of people would rather have a shuttered dead retail store than a multi-million dollar new apartment building in DTOP. There is a lot of NIMBY around here by people trying to control what they do not own. It is Madison, which is not exactly thriving. Investment is good, let it happen.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: May 2nd, 2017 2:53 PM

I am certainly sympathetic to those that live in this area but it does feel like people have an unrealistic expectation of what type of business is likely to open on Madison. Madison street is the only 4 lane east/west street inside the village. It doesn't get much walking traffic and it doesn't have many parking options. People can park on side streets but that also irritates people. This all means that Madison is likely to attract places that allow for fast in and out like fast food and gas. If I was opening my own store or restaurant I wouldn't pick Madison. Maybe the village can do things to make this a little better but they can't really change this dynamic that much. I know there was some discussion about making Madison one lane which I believe would be a real traffic challenge but I suppose it might make it feel a little more like downtown OP.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: May 2nd, 2017 2:11 PM

Tom Alan, your response to a resident's concerns seems unfair. I'm sure you would strongly object if vacant land in your neighborhood was being developed for a rendering plant. Of course, there's no comparison to what is proposed for the 500 block of South Lyman but challenging the neighbor to buy the land herself is unreasonable. She has right to express those worries about how the fast food joint will impact the quality of life in the neighborhood.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: May 2nd, 2017 1:49 PM

Actually, you can Alan. Through zoning, building codes and other regulations.

Tom Alan from Oak Park  

Posted: May 2nd, 2017 1:45 PM

I guess what I would have to say is that if you want something you have to do it yourself. You want Madison St revitalized? Buy land there and revitalize it. But if you don't, then don't be surprised if some other person or organization does. And like you wouldn't want people to tell you what to do on your land, you can't tell others what to do on their land.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: May 2nd, 2017 11:23 AM

I think people need to wait until the new board is up and running. The Albion issue and Madison Street "development" will move forward in the context of a markedly different board with Simone Boutet, Deno J. Andrews and Dan Moroney. Perhaps village taxpayer questions will start getting transparent answers rather than opaque rhetoric.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: May 2nd, 2017 10:42 AM

Good luck Brooke. I feel your pain - really. You will be labelled a bunch of NIMBYs as we were when we tried to stop the WhiteCO development some years ago. You rememebr WhiteCo (now called something else), don't you? WhiteCo, Oak Park's contribution to Soviet Bloc architecture. And now we (in our neighborhood) have another fight: the ridiculous out of proportion, inane, Albion development. But I agree with you. If this is how our "city fathers" define Madison street development - at the expense of the neighbors - well we are all in big trouble. Hopefully people such as yourself will pay a lot more attention to local elections. They really do affect our every day lives more than national elections - as you are finding out. Good luck with your "grass roots" efforts. As a veteran of such efforts, you're going to need all the luck you can muster.

Brooke Miller  

Posted: May 1st, 2017 10:44 PM

As a resident if the 500 block of Lyman Ave., this is devastating. It is not a matter of "if you don't like the food, don't go there" - this is a proposal of building another late night, low budget establishment on our residential street. We have McDonald's (which is open until the early morning hours) on one side of our street and now the chance of another late night (and often times post night of drinking) spot on the other side of our street. We are welcoming people to come and go in our neighborhood at all hours of the night. This feels like an invite to trouble to me. I'm feeling disheartened by the village of Oak Park for the first time since we moved here two years ago... I'm beginning to regret not listening to the warnings of "don't move east of Ridgeland..." Clearly this side of town is not a priority. I'm going to work my hardest along with my great neighbors to try and stop this and retain our neighborhood.

Mary Pikul  

Posted: May 1st, 2017 9:44 PM

Oops - Tom, I spelled your name wrong. My apologies.

Mary Pikul  

Posted: May 1st, 2017 9:42 PM

Tom Allen, I am all for an independent restaurant owner setting up shop on Madison. Another Buzz? Organic fast food? Vegan option? That at least has the possibility of adding more character to Madison and that would help to make Madison blend in more with the rest of Oak Park. When looking to buy a home last year, homes to close to Madison and especially near McDonalds and DD were deal breakers for me. Not that I don't visit them once in awhile, I just don't want to live by them. Okay, I just realized that my 6th grader is reading Time magazine, and I'm commenting on Taco Bell......

Tom Alan from Oak Park  

Posted: May 1st, 2017 4:30 PM

I live right by the Mcdonalds on Madison and I welcome Taco Bell. I welcome any franchise that wants to give it a go. If you want to purchase the land you can, and I will welcome that. We, as a country, have made this land a place for everyone to have dreams. If you boycott their dreams, then you should have your dreams boycotted also.

Anne Sperling  

Posted: May 1st, 2017 3:51 PM

No no no! I thought the goal was to improve Madison, not to make it a fast-food strip. The drive-thru traffic every morning on Harvey next to Dunkin Donuts is awful, and I don't know about the property values, but I wouldn't want to live next door, would you? This is not a matter of what food you want to eat, it is a matter of our neighborhood values. Clearly OP doesn't value the neighborhoods south of Madison between Ridgeland and Austin. I am sure this would never fly on Division between Oak Park and Harlem!!

Ray Simpson  

Posted: April 29th, 2017 4:47 PM

How many minimum wage jobs will give young adults the opportunity to learn how to get to work on time and the benefits of going the extra mile for your employer? How many of those jobs will be lost to automation because of $15? Just wondering.

Ted Sowinski  

Posted: April 29th, 2017 3:53 PM

I live near Dunkin Doughnuts and MacDonalds. The last thing we need in this neighborhood is another fast food franchise -- more traffic, noise and garbage! I hope we can stop this.

Richard Stephen  

Posted: April 29th, 2017 6:55 AM

@Bruce Kline: Mr. Hammonds' review of the new Taco Bell may leave out direct references to President Trump, but I'm sure he will let us know that the food there is not really authentic Mexican fare and that it's some form of cultural appropriation.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: April 28th, 2017 11:07 PM

@Richard Stephen. I am to. I wonder if Mr. Hammond can do a food review about food and not about politics. You know a food review about food, not about Mr. Trump. You think?

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: April 28th, 2017 8:55 PM

Do we know if the Village is providing any financial assistance or incentives?

Richard Stephen  

Posted: April 28th, 2017 7:21 PM

I wholeheartedly look forward to David Hammonds' review of the new Taco Bell.

Richard Stephen  

Posted: April 28th, 2017 7:16 PM

I rank Taco Bell towards the bottom of the fast food chain ladder but no one's forcing anyone to eat there. Some of the comments here make it sound like a Taco Bell on Madison is the end of the world as we know it. Lighten up already! Where you eat is a choice. Not every business is going to appeal to everyone - don't like Taco Bell; don't go. Problem solved.

Sarah Carr  

Posted: April 28th, 2017 2:51 PM

A really poor response to trying to "clean up" Madison Street. Really a Taco Bell...this is the best we can do?! This is very frustrating!

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: April 28th, 2017 1:43 PM

If the best your urban planner can come up with is just another fast food retailer, what you really need a different urban planner. That's really low hanging fruit.

Michael O'Malley from Oak Park  

Posted: April 28th, 2017 1:22 PM

That's it Brian. Lets road diet the hell out of our last viable east west arterial and put the Taco Bell on Jackson Blvd.

Laura Lallos  

Posted: April 28th, 2017 10:32 AM

"As a result, the value of the subject property is anticipated to substantially improve adjacent property values similarly," the application states. Actually, the construction of a drive-through Taco Bell on the corner of a residential street will slash the value of the homes adjacent to the property. This stretch of Madison bears the brunt of considerable fast-food litter and traffic already. To add one more to the mix is a move in the wrong direction.

Brian Chang  

Posted: April 28th, 2017 10:24 AM

A road diet would probably be an effective way of discouraging auto-centric retail such as drive-through fast food restaurants. Just saying.

Kathryn Jonas from oak park  

Posted: April 28th, 2017 9:51 AM

What a shame! With each new fast-food drive-thru "restaurant" approved for Madison St, it becomes more and more difficult to envision a way to knit together the remaining buildings of historic significance from Austin to Harlem to create a more unified, attractive streestcape to complement the residential neighborhoods to the north and south. The continuing piecemeal development along Madison St, with an emphasis on fast-food drive-thru "restaurants" will turn this street into just another one of the franchise highways that have overtaken much of suburbia. Oak Park has lost its sense of urban planning in its rush to approve anything seen as bringing in additional tax revenue. Where are the creative thinkers/urban planners/architects who should be engaged with the community in some serious thinking about how to shape Madison St into something beautiful that we can all be proud of? Why has tax revenue become the sole measure of the value of a development? In the process we are destroying the very things we value about Oak Park. I recently learned that the historically significant old Foley Cadillac building on Madison and Wesley is under contract by a developer who will knock it down to make it part of a larger development. The Village used to send economic development director Mike Chen to Las Vegas every year on our dime to attend the annual fast food franchise convention. I remember how he touted having clinched the KFC drive-thru on Madison. Unfortunately, it appears this type of development for Madison is still being pursued.

Kaidrea Stockman  

Posted: April 28th, 2017 9:51 AM

Yes! I love Taco Bell! ? I read it's become one of the healthiest fast food chains. :) But seriously, I've been waiting for TB come to OP. But it's probably not a good thing...

Ben Conley from Oak Park   

Posted: April 27th, 2017 9:10 PM

Yo quiero Taco Bell.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: April 27th, 2017 9:06 PM

Someone in the world doesn't want me to lose those last 10.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: April 27th, 2017 7:58 PM

How hard up could Taco Bell be? The Dunkin Donuts was robbed, there was a shoot out at the currency exchange at Madison and Austin and Taco Bell wants to open at Lyman and Madison.

Mary Pikul  

Posted: April 27th, 2017 6:13 PM

Ugh. Try placing a Taco Bell on another business street like Chicago Avenue -- anywhere between East and Harlem. It would never be allowed. I thought the goal was to improve Madison, not to dirty Madison? I will give up all hope in our Village's future if this one passes.

Jim Kelly  

Posted: April 27th, 2017 5:36 PM

There was a lot of neighborhood opposition the the Dunkin Donuts that went up on the the southeast corner of of Harvey and Madison. I'm wondering if their fears and concerns proved justifiable, or if that business has in fact been a good neighbor. I really haven't heard comments one way or another -- but it would be very informative to the discussions about Taco Bell. One Trustee told me a while ago that Madison St. is the highest sales tax generator out of all the business districts -- and it's mostly due to all the fast food outlets there. Sure doesn't make for an attractive business district, though.

Christine Vernon  

Posted: April 27th, 2017 4:44 PM

My condolences to the neighbors in the area who are trying to preserve the residential family and child friendly atmosphere there and look to businesses that are compatible with that goal of avoiding hazardous traffic patterns at the end of their block.. Your only recourse is to get the zoning board and others to stop issuing 'special use' permits. What do we have zoning ordinances for when they keep getting abused? Taco Bell says it "would provide a service which is in the interest of the public convenience and will contribute to the general welfare of the neighborhood and community." It is in the Taco Bell's corporate interests to locate in Oak Park but not necessarily will it "contribute to the general welfare of the neighborhood and community." That's for Oak Parkers to determine and not Taco Bell's corporate interests to ascertain and state as fact. There are lots of negatives to having drive-in food businesses and their traffic in a residential neighborhood the least of which is trash, as we have seen from years of observation of the McDonald's at Taylor and Madison. So often we see what is done is not necessarily best for Oak Park but what is expedient. It will be interesting now that we have a new Board to see who's going to be driving the bus.

Melanie Wilson from Oak Park   

Posted: April 27th, 2017 4:30 PM

Yes please!

David Gulbransen  

Posted: April 27th, 2017 4:22 PM

Well, that's not gonna help with a road diet at all.

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