(Editor’s note: This story was corrected on July 29 to accurately reflect a quote from Steve Glinke. Mr. Glinke, head of building, planning and zoning for the village government, did not say that the village favored the expansion plan.)
Crystal Car Wash, 901 S. Harlem Ave., plans to expand onto the nearby lot at 834 S. Harlem Ave. and that is raising concerns from some neighbors who say that the car wash is already making too much nose.
According to Section 5-2-4C of the Forest Park municipal code, businesses can’t “engage in a business or occupation” that “causes noise to disturb the peace and quiet of the neighborhood between the hours of six o’clock (6) p.m. and seven o’clock (7) a.m.” Crystal Car Wash’s vacuums currently run until the business closes at 9 p.m. However, that provision doesn’t apply to any businesses that existed before the restriction was put in place.
Steve Glinke, Forest Park’s director of building, planning and zoning, said that Premier Car Wash, occupied the lot before Crystal Car Wash was grandfathered in. If the property was abandoned for more than 180 days, the nonconforming use would’ve lapsed, but since that never happened, Crystal Car Wash inherited it.
Glinke said the village has heard the complaints “loud and clear,” but they don’t have many options. In the past, he has encouraged Rembos and the neighbors to work it out on their own.
“It’s often difficult to reconcile conflicts under the municipal code when non-conformities exist throughout this mature and densely built community,” he said. “Forest Park is not a one-size-fits-all community forcing case by case evaluations in order to encourage development while maintaining the quiet enjoyment of our neighborhoods.”
Glinke said that, since the northern expansion is on a different lot, it isn’t grandfathered in, so the car wash would need to apply for zoning relief to put in more vacuums. The process would require a public hearing, and Glinke said he believed that any concerns residents have would be sorted out as part of the process.
Neil Rembos, of Chicago, bought Premier Car Wash in May 2017. He spent the next year and a half renovating the car wash.
“I really looked at the area and I felt the people of Forest Park deserved a higher quality car wash that had an emphasis on affordability, and that’s why I built an over $5 million dollar facility,” he told the Review at the time. “It’s a massive improvement in this area with state-of-the-art equipment, self-vacuum stations, many, many tools.”
Even with the changes, the use was the same as before. According to section 9-9-4D of the village municipal code, the non-conforming property must be abandoned for a least 180 days in order to be subject to the current zoning regulations. Glinke said that, while the car wash wasn’t open during the renovations, it was never abandoned altogether. And since it remains non-conforming, it’s not violating the municipal code.
Glinke said the car wash plans to build more vacuums on the recently acquired lot. But that plan will need to be approved by the village. That approval process will also allow neighbors to raise their concerns, he said.
“The owner will be required to submit an application for zoning relief, which means a public hearing before the Zoning Board of Appeals and ratification of their recommendation by the full Village Council,” Glinke said.
He said that Rembos hasn’t submitted the plans, and the hearing can’t be scheduled until that happens.
The Zoning Board of Appeals meets every third Monday of the month. Unless a special meeting is scheduled, the earliest the hearing can take place is Aug. 16. Glinke said the hearing would be an opportunity to address residents’ concerns, both about what’s already there and what the addition would bring.
“[We] believe the pending public hearing will allow critical resident input regarding existing and proposed conditions,” he said. “We’re hopeful this exercise will temper these complaints and welcome the improvement of what is arguably a disastrous eyesore across the street.”