NEW LENOX, IL — For over three hours, dozens of residents spoke out against a proposed annexation and associated Casey’s gas station development at a public hearing at the New Lenox Village Board meeting on Monday.

“Believe it or not, we’re happy to see everyone here,” Mayor Tim Baldermann said at the start of the public hearing. “This is what good government does.”

The public hearing was held for an annexation agreement for property on the northeast corner of Route 30 and West Circle Drive, for a Casey’s gas station development. The board also held a first read for the annexation agreement and rezoning certain property to C-3.

The property is owned by Bluestone Single Tenant Properties, and was purchased in February 2020, Mike MacKinnon, a representative from the company, said. Previously the property was home to Smith Brothers Garden Center, which has now dissolved, MacKinnon said.

MacKinnon said the site was marketed to several retailers, and Casey’s had the most significant interest.

“The proposed rezoning is consistent with the village’s land use plan,” MacKinnon said.

The gas station would include 10 multi-product fuel dispensers, and a 5,500-square-foot convenience store. MacKinnon said some changes were made after hearing concerns from neighbors, including relocating underground storage tanks, a stormwater detention basin with two water quality structures, and adding a 6-foot fence to the rear of the property.

“We’re trying to go above and beyond,” he said.

Several nearby residents of Lincolnwood Hills and Bluestone Bay subdivisions worked on a presentation for the board which included topics like, a rebuttal of events from the Planning Commission meeting, discrepancies between the Will County Assessor, Tax Collector and Geographic Information Systems zoning records, underground storage tank leaks in Illinois, underground storage tank video from Dr. Marty Matlock, Johns Hopkins fuel transfer study, a non-fuel format from Casey’s Investor Day presentations, traffic issues, crime, image, Casey’s larger scale underground storage tank leaks data, and topology.

The group had planned to show a 19-minute video from an expert they had reached out to which discussed underground storage tanks, but Baldermann declined and said the board wanted to hear from people at the meeting.

“Public health should never take second place to anything. Public health is top priority,” resident Walter Chiapalla said. Chiapalla discussed the dangers of gasoline seepage through concrete, from smaller spills which happen when you fuel your vehicle.

Residents also expressed concerns with the topography of the site, as the gas station sits uphill from the subdivision. Environmental concerns were also a factor, as there is a nearby forest preserve, bike path, and Hickory Creek.

“We don’t think it’s the right place, they’re too high, and we’re too low,” resident Kay Grobarcik said.

“I don’t think it’s a good economic risk for the village to allow any degradation of an obvious recreational draw,” Walter Krzak, who owns the neighboring Hickory Creek Animal Hospital, said.

Several residents also expressed concerns of water contamination from the gas station, as some residents have wells on their property.

After resident comments, James Skolda, legal counsel for Casey’s, said the company has hundreds of sites near residential areas, including those who use well water, and has had no issues with harming wells.

Skolda said the alarm systems for the underground storage tanks are monitored 24/7, and it’s illegal to not report any release of gasoline.

Mayor Tim Baldermann expressed concerns over residents’ questions about the seepage of gasoline through concrete when smaller gas spills or drips happen. Residents presented a study from Johns Hopkins from 2014, titled “Small spills at gas stations could cause significant public health risks over time,” which Skolda said was the only study he could find on the topic.

Skolda said the study uses “may” “could” “possibly” and “might” when referring to impacts of these types of spills.

“If this [research] was correct, when you pull up that concrete, there should be saturated soil underneath. Also, on every gas station site to ever operate, in the history of time, the groundwater should be contaminated. That’s not what you find,” Skolda said. “It was surprising to me that this mathematic model that was proposed didn’t have any sort of real-world follow-up in the next seven years.”

“It did have a lot of the ‘mights,'” Baldermann said. “For people who live there, they don’t want to take a chance on a ‘might’.”

“I think you have a responsibility to come back to the board and say, ‘Okay we can appreciate that [research], here’s our scientific response to that, here’s our history,'” he added.

No vote was taken on the proposed annexation and rezoning, and it will be up for a second read at a later village board meeting.


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