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FOX RIVER GROVE, IL-One retail grocery trend, village officials here were told, is to build a gasoline station on an outlot near a freestanding store. However, that trend probably won’t be coming to this far northwest suburb of Chicago soon.

Members of the village’s zoning board of appeals as well as the plan commission have turned in negative recommendations to the village board for a request by the Dominick’s grocery chain, now owned by Safeway, to build a “fuel station” on Northwest Highway, southwest of a one-year-old, $11-million food store built with tax incremental financing assistance.

Operators of the village’s three gasoline stations as well as residents petitioned the panels to give their thumbs-down to the Dominick’s proposal, saying the community has enough pumps despite claims by the food retailer the area is underserved.

The “fuel center” would have been Northlake, IL-based Dominick’s fourth in the Chicago market, adding to locations in north suburban Niles as well as two southwest suburbs, Romeoville and Shorewood. Nationwide, Dominick’s vice president of real estate Mike Mallon says the chain will open 90 fuel centers in the next 12 months, including “10 to 12″ in the Chicago area, adding to 115 in operation throughout North America.

Why the push?

“The fuel station is a crucial component to my business,” Mallon told zoning board members. “The reason I sell gas is that it helps drives sales in my stores.”

While Mallon wanted Dominick’s customers to have a “one-stop shopping” opportunity to get groceries and a fill-up on one trip, a Shell station already is on one of the outlots in the Stone Hill Shopping Center.

Although Dominick’s officials reminded zoning board members they couldn’t deny their request on the basis of stopping competition, village regulations require a special use permit for a gasoline station on a lot less than 10 acres. Dominick’s planned to divide a 2.94-acre site into two nearly equal lots. Unless trustees go against both panels’ recommendations, they will forgo an estimated $110,000 a year in the village’s share of sales tax revenue.

Denial of the special use permit could hamper development of the second lot on Northwest Highway, also US 14, which runs through the northwest suburbs into Chicago, Dominick’s real estate experts and the shopping center owner claim.

“This lot here is the subject of many calls,” says shopping center co-owner Ted Wagner, a real estate broker with Crystal Lake, IL-based Premier Commercial Realty. “They say, ‘If you’re not going to build the fuel center, we’re not interested.’ Marketing-wise (the fuel center) will help finish this thing.”

Broker John M. Pope of Palos Park,IL-based John Pope & Associates echoed Dominick’s assertions that fuel centers are a retail trend. He adds they do not detract from the value of surrounding outlots.

“Currently the north end of the shopping center looks unfinished,” Pope says. “The fuel center would actually set the stage for the development of the adjacent property.”

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