ROCHELLE — The Rochelle Planning and Zoning Commission recommended city council approved a new truck stop but not before hearing from some concerned residents.
Loves Travel Stops and Country Stores petitioned the city to rezone 17 acres of property near Interstate 88 and Steward Road on the city’s far south side to construct a truck stop and convenience store, along with a Hardees Restaurant and Chester’s Chicken.
As part of the agreement, Love’s proposes to widen and install traffic signals on Steward Road along with water and sewer improvements to the site, both at an estimated total cost of $1.7 million.
Love’s real estate project manager, Chad Bruner, explained why the family owned and operated business chose Rochelle as their next project, mainly due to a large gap in travel stop facilities between DeKalb and Dixon. Bruner also said the intermodal along with existing and growing industrial areas helped in the decision.
“With the improvements we will make and the service we will provide, we really think we will help spur growth within that area,” Bruner said. “I think what you will find, with us bringing all those utilities in there it will really open it up for additional development.”
Bruner noted between 60 to 80 jobs would be created between the travel stop and adjoining food service facilities. He stressed the approval of Hardees Restaurant and Chester’s Chicken is as of today, but could change.
The travel stop center also proposes to construct a tire shop at the facility.
In the petition, Love’s requested variances of off street parking and the municipal sign ordinance. Kip Countryman, Building Inspector, explained Love’s requested the sign immediately adjacent to the interstate to be 50 feet, with another sign placed between the two entrances off Steward Road, at 25 feet in height.
“Staff feels that since the petitioner has provided documentation of our request for variances, the planning and zoning commission should approve the development,” Countryman said after noting the proposed project variances are not dangerous to public health nor will impair property values to the neighborhood.
The variances will not impede normal development of surrounding public property or congest streets, according to the statement from Countryman.
Three residents voiced concerns, mainly due to the potential for increased noise and air pollution. Resident Eric Gordon said he believes if this project is approved, it will change the “dynamic of our community and my neighborhood.”
“What will happen to my property value when the zoning changes, and what is the plan to reduce noise from more trucks entering and exiting I88?” Gordon questioned, as he stated his concerns. “Is there a plan to circumvent drug and human trafficking?...Who will reimburse the community for increased public services for law enforcement to patrol the facility and the increase in emergency medical services for fire and medical?”
Gordon also questioned debris containment, to which Bruner explained there would be a five-foot fencing along with evergreens on the perimeter to contain any trash.
Resident Ben Baar addressed the commissioners stating his position in favor of the facility. Baar said he believes there has been a lull in new businesses coming to the far south side of the Hub City.
“I’m kind of excited about the idea of having a business on the far south side. I know there are some cons to brining in a business that will have heavy traffic but I’m excited about having a spark down there, and having the opportunities for further businesses on the far south side,” Baar said. “Bringing in businesses improves our tax base and gives us a chance to get some bigger fish in Rochelle.”
Commissioner Diane McNeilly stated her concerns during open session, mainly from the potential for decreased air quality. McNeilly also said she believes some trucks are not following the law when idled, and required to shut down.
Commissioner Vicki Snyder-Chura questioned that as well. Bruner said the trucking companies are requesting these types of facilities install auxiliary power cords, although he could not be certain the proposed facility would have them, after being prompted by a concerned citizen.
In a series of motions, the five commissioners present voted unanimously on all counts to recommend the city council approve the project.
After the meeting, McNeilly reiterated her concerns.
“I am mostly concerned about the fact that the trucks leave themselves idling…you get the smells away from the truck stops, and I just don’t think it’s a healthy thing to have in our community,” McNeilly said. “I know this can be enforced to have them turn it off and I think we need to be aware of that and police it in our community.”
McNeilly also stated she believes the upside to the project is the sewer and water improvements that Love’s would be constructing.
“That’s a big positive and it works towards what the planning and zoning commission has been working on which is to take our community farther south and that’s good.”
Now that the planning and zoning commission gave the nod, the next step is to have city council vote on the proposed plan at their next meeting. Planning and zoning president Dr. Joe Thiele said it is in the hands of the council members.
“I believe that it will be a positive move…that’s something that the city council will have to discuss. They asked us to go through the list — is this something we don’t want to touch or do we want to deal with? What we’ve said is yes, you go ahead and consider it,” he said.