Bolingbrook Board Remands DuPage Township Food Pantry Proposal

January 31, 2024 0 By JohnValbyNation

BOLINGBROOK, IL — The food pantry and resource center proposed by DuPage Township to be built in Bolingbrook is back in Plan Commission hands after a Village Board vote.

Board members assembled Jan. 23 for their regular meeting and discussed the development proposed to be built at the northeast corner of Canterbury Lane and Lily Cache Lane, near Bolingbrook High School and Bolingbrook Fire Department headquarters.

DuPage Township applied to construct an approximately 11,000-square-foot building to house a food pantry, an office and a warehouse, according to village documents. The pantry and resource center is proposed to occupy a 1.46-acre site currently vacant and zoned as B-1 local retail.

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The project was listed on the agenda in the form of a motion to take action on the Plan Commission’s report recommending the denial of a special use permit for a planned development with variances and a concept plan.

The Village Board unanimously voted to remand the matter to the Plan Commission, a decision initiated by Trustee Michael Lawler and seconded by Trustee Jose Quintero. Trustee Kelly recused herself from the vote with the Board’s approval.

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Village Attorney Burt Odelson said the applicant submitted “incomplete” and “disjointed” information.

“You can’t recommend a plan that’s 65 percent, 75 percent, 90 percent done and then new submissions come in,” he said, explaining the village received a 12-page “dissertation” hours before the Board meeting.

In a letter to Mayor Mary Alexander-Basta, Director of Community Development Matt Eastman penned, “The question is not whether the Village needs a food pantry, it is whether the Township has sufficiently met all the applicable standards and criteria for a Planned Development found within … the Village Code.”

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Eastman urged the Village Board to remand the item back to the Plan Commission for further reconsideration to consider matters including supplemental traffic studies, updated facility use data and site plan, the need to consider possible impact fees, and how to enforce the township’s commitment, made in a letter to the village, to have no semitrailer deliveries.

RELATED: DuPage Township Plans New Food Pantry, Will Close Romeoville Location

Village Clerk Martha Barton said the village received 19 letters, voicemails and emails regarding the food pantry.

“All of these messages had the same information, had the same objections, had the same concerns, which included the location, increased traffic, pedestrian and vehicular safety, duplication of existing resources and the cost to taxpayers,” Barton explained.

Residents and meeting-goers also shared opinions, some in favor, following the Board’s vote.

Rachel Ventura, state senator for the 43rd District, spoke and encouraged trustees to approve the project when it returns before the Board, citing, “one key factor in a child’s school and academic performance can be directly tied to the access to food.”

“We put state dollars, tax dollars into this food pantry as well as federal dollars went into this,” she said. “We believe that this is important. Food pantries aren’t just for the homeless; as we know in our state, low and middle social economic families supplement their family groceries using the food pantries.”

Several residents spoke not in opposition to the food pantry but rather to its location.

“There are many open buildings available that could accommodate a food pantry and resource service that wouldn’t cost as much money so that, again, it could be put back into services for needy families and people who are looking for help in the Bolingbrook and surrounding community,” said Linda Ellis, a 30-year resident of Bolingbrook.

Another resident, who didn’t share his name, echoed the sentiments.

“This is really a bad location, and I think it will harm the community much more than what it will help, but there are other suitable places around town that [DuPage Township] could use,” he said.

Peggy McMillan, a 45-year resident of Bolingbrook, also spoke against the pantry’s location, saying, “Traffic is important, it is, to the people that have lived here. I’m not saying we shouldn’t give you food; I’m saying that we should put it in a place that’s safe.”

The residents who voiced support for the project cited a necessity to support the growing number of people in need of food help.

“The truth is the number of people needing food assistance is growing, and the amount of food assistance available isn’t growing enough to meet the needs,” Sue Harvey, a Bolingbrook resident and volunteer with the Romeoville food pantry, said in favor of the pantry. “No matter how many food pantries there are around there, they are not enough because people have to visit different ones several times a month to feed their family. … There’s more need than everyone here can handle.”

Karolina Strack, a village resident since 2016, said, “‘Bolingbrook, a place to grow.’ It’s our village’s motto, and approving the food pantry and resource center would do just that. It would help the nearly 6,000 Bolingbrook residents who live in poverty to grow.”

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