The city’s Zoning Board of Appeals approved several variances to help enable Pilot Travel Centers to come to Morris.
Public hearings were held for variances regarding the truck stop’s signs, green space and the construction material.
The gas station will be located on the east side of Illinois 47, and on the south side of Mall Road, across from Costco. The plans indicate it will also house a Subway and have a Pilot deli selling other food products. It will be open 24 hours.
The company requested a 100-foot sign to ensure its visibility.
“To get this site to work for us we need visibility from the interstate,” said Brandon Parks, project manager for Pilot.
The city’s municipal code allows for 40 foot signs so the company wanted a 60-foot variance. The board of appeals compromised and approved a 90-foot sign, on a 4-to-1 vote. The approval is pending the FAA’s recommendation regarding the sign height, since the gas station is located close to the Morris Municipal Airport and its sign is in alignment with its runway.
Chairman Tom Dzuryak voted against the sign variance. He had pointed out during the meeting that the gas station would be listed on the Illinois Department of Transportation signs just prior to the Morris exit on I-80.
The board also approved a variance for the 90 foot-sign’s square footage. The code allows for 400 square feet and the company asked for it to have 544 square-feet. This also was approved 4 to 1. A 13-foot variance was given as well for the square-footage of the smaller, freestanding sign with the same vote.
Pilot also asked for a green-space variance. The city requires 40 feet of green space for Business-3 commercial property north of I-80. Pilot asked for it to be 20 feet due to storm water drainage issues, turn around and parking issues, and to allow for it to be closer to Illinois 47.
“For the community of Morris I don’t want to see the mess you have in Minooka,” said Dzuryak.
Jason Wiesbrock of Spaceco Inc. engineering firm said they have planned better for this location with having the entrance off of Mall Road. The variance was approved, with Dzuryak voting no again.
Neighboring business owner Ken Polcyn of Kenny Motors expressed concerns over the increased truck traffic near his business.
As it is, trucks from Travel Centers of America and Costco are parking on the street, he said, and he is concerned that will increase and wants to make sure IDOT puts plans in effect that will make sure trucks enter the Pilot facility completely.
He also is worried about the diesel fumes entering his paint booth at his shop through its air intakes. The paint booths had to be moved when TA came in, he said, and with Pilot the booths will be in the direct path of the fumes again.
Parks said it is the state’s responsibility to maintain the fume regulations.
“At some point it becomes a neighborly thing,” said Polcyn.
They discussed the use of a “No idling zone” sign and Parks said this could be looked into.
The last variance given was for construction material. Pilot wants to use what Parks called “true stucco,” meaning it is not made with Styrofoam as some stucco is, but is a masonry product.
City Attorney Scott Belt said the Development Review Committee does not include stucco as a masonry product in the city code even though it is masonry, which is why it went before the appeals.
The board approved the use of the “true stucco” unanimously.