Minutes of the Regular Meeting of the Gurnee Planning and Zoning Board - August 15, 2012

 Village of Gurnee

Planning and Zoning Board Minutes

August 15, 2012

                                                                                                                                                                                   

1.  Call to Order and Roll Call

The meeting was called to order at 7:30 p.m.

Planning and Zoning Board Members present:  Chairman Jim Sula, Richard McFarlane, David Nordentoft, Richard Twitchell & Gwen Broughton

Planning and Zoning Board Members absent:     Edwin Paff & Sharon Salmons

Other Officials present:    Tracy Velkover, Planning Manager & Bryan Winter, Village Attorney

2.  Pledge of Allegiance

3.  Public Comment

Chairman Sula asked if anyone from the public had any questions or comments for anything that is not on this evening’s agenda.  As there were no responses, Chairman Sula closed the floor to the public. 

4.  Approval of Planning and Zoning Board Meeting Minutes for July 18, 2012

Chairman Sula noted an error in the July 18, 2012 meeting minutes—that the motion to approve the Minor Sign Exception for Vision Equip was incorrectly recorded as being seconded by Planning Manager, Tracy Velkover.  A correction was made reflecting Gwen Broughton as having seconded the motion to approve the minor exception. 

Mr. McFarlane motioned, seconded by Mr. Nordentoft, to approve the July 18, 2012 meeting minutes as amended.

Voice Vote: 

All “Ayes”

Motion carried:  5-0-0

5.  Public Hearing:  Amendment to the Gurnee Town Centre Planned Unit Development Wall Sign Standards

Ms. Velkover stated that Ross Dress for Less, located at 6901 Grand Avenue, is requesting to amend the Gurnee Town Centre Planned Unit Development (PUD) sign standards to reduce the size threshold of a Major Anchor store from “greater than 33,000 sq. ft.” to “greater than 25,000 sq. ft.” and to allow a second wall sign for Major Anchor stores that are end-cap tenants.   She noted that Ross is looking to occupy the former Old Navy space at the east end of the center, which is approximately 25,500 sq. ft. in size.  She noted that staff determined that a third modification would be necessary to allow an increase of 6” for the mounting height of the secondary wall sign.  This additional 6” in mounting height allows the sign to be centered in the sign band area. 

Mr. Terry Weppler, attorney for Ross Stores, Inc., introduced Mr. Mike White, with Ross Stores, Inc., and Mr. Steve Yee, Vice-President of Property Management for Inland Real Estate (property owner). 

Mr. White provided the following background information about Ross Stores, Inc.:

  • “big box” retailer that has been in existence since the late 1980s
  • 1,100 stores nationwide
  • new to the Midwest
  • 17 stores opened in Chicago-land since October of last year
  • active in the community, including supporting Boys and Girls Clubs, as well as the American Heart Association

Mr. White also provided the following information regarding the proposed Gurnee store:

  • will be their farthest north store and will pull shoppers from Wisconsin, as the company currently does not have any stores in Wisconsin
  • average store volume:  $17 million
  • store will employ about 65 associates

Mr. Weppler stated that Ross is requesting to amend the Gurnee Town Centre PUD to reduce the size threshold for a Major Anchor from “greater than 33,000 sq. ft.” to “greater than 25,000 sq. ft.”   He noted that the Ross store is approximately 25,500 sq. ft. in size.  He also stated that the petition includes a request for a second wall sign for Major Anchor stores that are end tenants.   The second sign would be for the secondary wall and not the store’s front elevation.   Finally, as noted by Ms. Velkover, a 6” modification to the mounting height of the secondary sign is needed in order for this sign to be centered on the façade.   Mr. Weppler presented a series of slides showing the proposed signs.  He noted that the sign on the east wall, facing toward Stonebrook Drive, would not be visible from this roadway due to existing vegetation.  However, there is a view of this sign from Grand Avenue, especially from near the intersection of Stonebrook Drive and Grand Avenue, where there is a traffic signal.  He also presented a slide of the front of the store and stated that the front façade is very large due to the arched profile that is typical of Old Navy stores.   He indicated that the additional size requested for the front wall sign (25 sq ft.) would help the sign fit the scale of the store’s façade.  He noted that even though the Ross store is approximately 7,500 sq. ft. smaller than the hhGregg store (which is a Major Anchor store), the area on the front façade may be similar due to the arced storefront associated with the proposed Ross location.

Chairman Sula asked where the photos in the slides had been taken from. 

Mr. Weppler answered that they were taken from the bank parking lot.

Mr. Sula stated that the pictures were taken from property that is interior to the shopping center. 

Mr. Weppler focused on a slide that featured a photo taken from Grand Avenue, as visibility from Grand Avenue was the reason for the request of a second sign.  As he proceeded through the slides, he offered a prospective view of the second sign from Stonebrook Drive.  He stated that the sign would not be as visible to residents traveling south on Stonebrook Drive as it would be to those driving westerly on Grand Avenue.    He noted that the Grand Avenue view of this sign was important to Ross.

Chairman Sula asked how long one would see the sign if driving the speed limit along Grand Avenue, indicating that it appears it would be visible only for a very short period of time. 

Mr. Weppler stated that he did not know exactly how long the sign would be visible, but stated that the image in the slide is from the perspective of a person stopped at the Stonebrook Drive stoplight.   So any vehicles stopped near this intersection would have a view of the sign.

Mr. Steve Yee spoke on behalf of Inland Real Estate, owners of Gurnee Town Centre, where Ross Dress for Less will be opening.  He spoke of prior vacancies in the Centre, and how Ross Dress for Less was part of a turnaround that has brought more tenants to the property.  He noted that Ross will be occupying slightly over 25,000 square feet of property that Inland Real Estate owns.  He stated that property taxes on the shopping center are in the six-figures, so keeping the center fully leased is of importance, not only to them but to all taxing bodies.

Mr. Weppler stated that the petitioners were happy to answer any questions regarding the request being made.

Chairman Sula stated that the Planning and Zoning Board would deliberate if the petitioner is done with their presentation.

Mr. Nordentoft explained that he is not inclined to recommend favorably for the proposed amendments, as comparable businesses have been able to exist within the established sign standards.  He expressed concern over “opening a can of worms” by making such amendments, as other businesses may then come to expect them as well.  He stated that the line as to be drawn somewhere in terms of the threshold for distinguishing between a Major Anchor store and an Anchor store for determining sign size.

Mr. Twitchell also expressed concern over setting such a precedent, and questioned whether, if allowances are made for to allow signs on the end walls of the center, restrictions could be established for walls facing residential properties.

Ms. Broughton stated that she, too, had concerns about the possibility of setting a precedent.  She stated that she did not like the idea of the signage on the side of the building, in particular, as the restriction of signage facing Stonebrook Drive is in other developments.

Mr. McFarlane expressed concern that approving the amendment would not be so much making an exception as it would actually be changing village policy.

Mr. Winter, as Village Attorney, addressed the concern over setting precedent by explaining that—due to the (large)size of the façade of this particular property—there may be due good cause to make such an amendment in this particular case, and—that doing so would not necessarily mean that there would be no way to “close the flood gates”.   

Chairman Sula questioned whether or not signage on the east of the building would even make a difference, anyway--due to the vegetation that would likely impair the sign’s visibility.  He also spoke against planned signage on the pillars within the property, stating that it had not even been addressed. 

Mr. Weppler stated that he did not address these signs because he had been told he would not have to. 

This was verified by Ms. Velkover, who stated that such signage is allowed due to it not being visible from public right-of-ways and property lines. 

Chairman Sula also expressed concern over changing the sign standards, as proposed, since owners of other PUDs with similar circumstances would then want similar changes.  He noted that staff has already received an inquiry from an adjacent PUD property owner wanting similar sign changes. 

Mr. Weppler stated that the amendments to a PUD are not unheard of as hhGregg amended the wall sign standards for this shopping center recently.

Ms. Velkover verified this, but pointed out that the other shopping centers in the area that are subject to PUDs have somewhat different sign standards.   Specifically, she noted that larger stores in Stonebrook Commons and the Grand Hunt Center are allowed one sign of 150 sq. ft. and then additional department or product identification signage that can total an additional 50 sq. ft.

Mr. McFarlane re-stated his belief that this is a matter of policy, not precedent.

Chairman Sula responded that “precedent creates policy”. 

Chairman Sula opened the floor to the public.  Seeing as there was no one from the public seeking to ask questions or make comments on the petition, Chairman Sula closed the floor.

Mr. Weppler stated that the petitioner has agreed to drop the request for the sign on the side of the building in an effort to move forward with the request for the main wall sign.

Chairman Sula again expressed concern over making such allowances for fear of other developments requesting the same—or, perhaps even greater—allowances.  He stated that he didn’t feel the business would be harmed by having signage at the size allowed by the PUD.

Mr. McFarlane made a motion to forward an unfavorable recommendation to the Village Board with regard to the requested change in sign standards for the Gurnee Town Centre PUD.  Mr. Nordentoft seconded the motion.   Chairman Sula asked if there was to be any discussion on the motion, and--clarified that this would mean no sign on the east side of the building would be allowed and the size threshold for Major Anchor stores would remain unchanged.

Roll Call Vote:

“Ayes”:                           Twitchell, Nordentoft, Broughton, McFarlane & Sula

“Nayes”:                         None

Abstain:                          None

Motion Carried:            5-0-0

6.  Open Meetings Act Training Reminder

Chairman Sula reminded the Board to complete training with the Open Meetings Act.  He noted that time is running out as this training must be completed by the end of the year.  

7.  Next Meeting Date:  September 5, 2012

8.  Adjournment:

Chairman Sula asked for a motion to adjourn the meeting.  Mr. Nordentoft made a motion to adjourn the meeting, seconded by Mr. McFarlane. 

Voice vote: 

All “Ayes”

Motion carried 5-0-0

The meeting was adjourned at 8:01 p.m.

Respectfully Submitted,

Joann Metzger
Secretary of the Planning and Zoning Board