Panel backs Walgreens for Ubaa Tap site
Plan Commissioners unanimously recommended five measures associated with a proposed Walgreens Pharmacy, which would be built on the former site of the UBAA Tap tavern on the 9900 block of Crawford Avenue. | File photo
Updated: January 14, 2013 6:15AM
Dozens of northeast end residents failed to persuade the Plan Commission last week that a new drive-through pharmacy is a bad fit for their neighborhood.
Plan Commissioners unanimously recommended five measures associated with the Walgreens Pharmacy, which would be built on the former site of the UBAA Tap tavern on the 9900 block of Crawford Avenue.
The Skokie Village Board will have final say on the project at an upcoming meeting.
For the Plan Commission, the issue was never about whether another Walgreens is necessary or even desirable for Skokie or that area. The property is already zoned commercial, noted Plan Commission Chairman Paul Luke, and if it wasn’t for Walgreens’ request for a drive-through and to sell alcohol, the Deerfield-based company would not need village approval. No site plan for 9956 Crawford Ave. needed to be submitted.
“What’s not up for debate is that a pharmacy can go on that property,” Luke said.
That restriction and a few others frustrated residents in attendance. Some wanted to talk about why another Walgreens was necessary for the village, but they were repeatedly told the use of the property wasn’t part of the commission’s deliberations. Those who live close to the proposed pharmacy and an adjoining alley, including some Evanston residents, raised concerns about traffic, lighting and safety.
The hearing was often contentious, and residents were asked to refrain from making comments from the audience. When resident David Rubin, who lives near the proposed project, continued to do just that, he was escorted out of the room by Jim McCarthy, the attorney representing the Plan Commission. McCarthy also asked a media member taking photographs to leave the room, but he was reminded by a commissioner that this was allowable at a public hearing.
The case marks the second time in two years that Walgreens has proposed a major development in Skokie to be met with opposition from neighbors. A new Walgreens recently opened near Crawford and Dempster Street after Harding Avenue residents protested.
This time, many of the opposing residents live on Keystone and Karlov avenues. Like its previous project, Walgreens would buy residential property occupied by a house and rezone it to commercial to create the drive-through pharmacy.
The project requires two zoning map amendments, subdivision of property and the two special use permits for the drive-through and sale of alcohol.
Residents are especially concerned about traffic spilling out of the drive-through and heading into their neighborhood. But Village Staff and ultimately the Plan Commission did not see the project as being dangerous.
“Planning is supportive of the drive-through facility at this location with a few minor modifications,” Planning Supervisor Steve Marciani said in his report to the commission. “This type of drive-through has a very low volume and a low impact on the surrounding community.”
Walgreens agreed to the village’s conditions to increase the width of the drive-through’s bypass lane and restrictions on the height of the retaining or screening walls.
Scott Gendell, of Terraco Real Estate Development and Management, representing Walgreens, said that residents to the east support the project, but Rubin said that people to the west do not.
In addition to the former UBAA Tap Tavern, the area is home to Toni’s Liquors. Some residents said another business selling alcohol isn’t positive for the area.
Cindy Gonzalez Latin said that an alley that spills into a residential area will increase traffic and “ruin our wonderful neighborhood.”
Walgreens representatives said the business would not stay open overnight. Commissioners maintained the Walgreens is not likely to have as much impact on the neighborhood as a tavern once did, noting that the UBAA Tap has been closed for over a year, but the property is zoned to be used for commercial purposes.
The new Walgreens would occupy 14,400 square feet. If Walgreens acquires a liquor license, it could sell alcohol from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday.
Bill Graham, owner of nearby Schaefer’s Wines, Foods & Spirits, questioned whether having three businesses within blocks of each other selling alcohol was a good thing.
Mark Tendam, Evanston’s Sixth Ward alderman, who represents residents who live near the site, asked the Plan Commission to take into account the concerns of his constituents. ~.