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Land vacant 20 years to get self-service gas station

DeKALB – An unattended Mobil self-service gas station is coming to the site of a former station, left vacant for about 20 years after storage tanks leaked underground, requiring remediation.

Four fuel islands with 10 pumps will be included in the project at 1020 N. First St., as well as a small utility building for an employee who will manage the station, full video surveillance, fully landscaped perimeters and an ATM.

On Monday, Rockford-based Kelley Williamson Co. was granted a special use permit for the station, which will be on the southeast corner of First Street and Hillcrest Drive, across the street from an active Phillips 66 station and diagonally across from an abandoned station.

First Ward Alderman David Jacobson voted against granting the permit, which was recommended to the DeKalb City Council without opposition during a Planning and Zoning Commission hearing last month.

Jacobson said he’s concerned with what can be done with the abandoned gas station in the future.

“There’s no way that corner can support three gas stations on a residential street,” he said during Monday’s meeting. “Approval of this project would effectively and permanently blight the corner across the street, because other than a gas station, there’s nothing else you can do across that street.”

City Attorney Dean Frieders said tanks leaked underground at that site, too. He said the city is exploring solutions for the property, including working with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, the state fire marshal and an environmental consultant to land a grant to remediate the site.

“If that occurred, it would likely involve razing that site and eliminating the gas station there and fully remediating the soil,” Frieders said. “We’re working through the liability and ownership aspects of that.”

Second Ward Alderman Bill Finucane, whose ward the intersection is in, said remediation can be expensive.

“Once [IEPA] goes into action to determine how bad a site is polluted, they will determine remediation,” Finucane said. “I know of some sites that have had to remove all of the dirt in the area and replace it, which can get pricey.”

On the proposed self-service station site, the IEPA issued a letter indicating no further remediation is necessary after years of corrective efforts and testing.

A similar self-service station exists on Peace Road. Finucane said he has not heard of any problems of security or maintenance at that location.

“They’ve also got security cameras, and people can pull in at any time, day or night, and use their credit card to get fuel,” Finucane said. “Stations like this have popped up in Chicago, and there’s also one in Waterman, but I’m not aware of any issues there either.”

Finucane said that he welcomes the new revenue generator.

“There have been other sites that were gas stations at one time but have been put to other uses, so I welcome someone else willing to invest in the community,” Finucane said. “That’s always a good thing.”

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