RANTOUL — Construction could start early next year for a new Taco Bell restaurant in Rantoul.
The Rantoul Planning and Zoning Commission last week voted to recommend the village board approve rezoning of the property from R-2 (residential) to C-2 (general commercial).
The commission also recommended the final plat be approved on a subdivision located on the grounds of the former Chanute Air Force Base.
The village board was expected to discuss the rezoning recommendations at Tuesday night’s study session and vote on their approval at the Dec. 10 regular meeting.
The restaurant will be located on the current site of J&D Auto-Truck Sales Inc., 629 W. Champaign Ave., just east of the McDonald’s restaurant. It will be owned by Chicago-based Buddy Bells Inc. — one of 22 Taco Bells owned by the company in Illinois, including several in Champaign-Urbana.
The company was the former operator of the Rantoul Taco Bell that closed this year. Buddy Bells owner Nick Kallergis told the Press earlier that the Taco Bell parent company gave them the option to upgrade the building or build a new one. They opted for the latter.
Mario Valentini, president of MRV Architects, Rolling Meadows, representing Buddy Bells Inc., outlined the site plan for the restaurant.
“This is an opportunity for them to come back into the community and allows them to bring what amounts to a brand new prototypical concept that is being rolled out nationally,” Valentini said. “It’s a fresher flow to what is a little dated brand with this new rollout that is doing so well for them.”
Because the site is next to residential property, the company has agreed to change the set-up of the drive-thru area and take other steps to diminish a potential nuisance factor.
“The drive-thru queues in front of the building,” Valentini said. “Historically that’s not usually how Taco Bell would do that, but this works well for us because it gives the opportunity to (deal with) some of the acoustical items” that might be a problem otherwise.
The menu board and drive-thru will be located on the west side of the building, away from the immediate adjacent residential area, and facing already-existing commercial properties.
The restaurant will accommodate up to nine cars in the drive-thru queue.
“If there is a situation where it does back up, we can do a full circulation,” and customers can possibly opt to order inside instead, Valentini said.
“This is a first-rate opportunity to develop this property. A significant amount of money (will be spent) to develop this building.”
Buffers in the form of 8-foot-tall privacy fencing and trees will also be added “to help with the noise to make that separation, whether physical, visual or acoustical,” he said.
The area will also be landscaped. The company will work with village staff to determine what size trees should be planted.
He said the company also used photometrics to gauge what type of lighting should be used to keep the illumination affecting the neighborhoods to a minimum.
“We’re zero at the property line,” Valentini said of the light levels. “There’s no light-emitting situation. The buffer that we’ve created here to the east and the south was one of our key goals from the very beginning. It worked out really well for us.”
The store will have a 35-foot-tall sign. Valentini said he is not sure if a larger sign visible from the interstate will be installed
A utility easement will be located on the south side of the property, allowing access for utility vehicles when needed.
Asked by a resident what the restaurant’s hours will be, Valentini said “it will depend on traffic patterns.”
He said Taco Bell has a breakfast menu. The dining room will likely be closed by 11 p.m., and the drive-thru will remain open until 4 a.m.
Company officials met with neighbors of the property in early November to address concerns.
Resident Debra Rawlings said it’s not ideal to have a commercial property on that corner, but the site has a history of being a commercial site.
She said given the history of the location and that it would be unlikely to be razed to make way for a residential property, she does not object to the Taco Bell being built.
She said given that it will remove an area eyesore and that the owners have tried to work with the neighbors to eliminate the nuisance value, she doesn’t have any objections.
Rawlings said she doesn’t remember noise coming from that site when it was operated as a filling station when she and her family moved there more than 20 years ago. Commission member Ron Loy said he believes the filling station wasn’t open at night.
The commission voted 5-0 to recommend the rezoning. Members Loy, Kevin Modglin Allen Jones Sr., Ken Waters and Brenda Crane were present.
Galaxy Way subdivision
The commission also voted unanimously to recommend the final subdivision plat of Galaxy Way Subdivision. Much of that property, which is bounded by Veterans Parkway to the north, Galaxy Drive to the east and Pacesetter Drive to the west, is owned by the village of Rantoul. Rantoul urban planner Chris Milliken said the 29-acre tract is located just northwest of Hangar 1.
He said there are no proposed road right-of-way changes or utility changes.
“It would simply be subdividing what was there,” Milliken said. “There were no lots divided out.”
He said there is potential to sell off a piece of the property — lots 5, 7 and 9. The focus of the village action is to get the lots platted so those properties can be sold.
All of the property is zoned industrial.
In other business, the commission was informed that in the wake of Chairman Mike Daugherity resigning from the panel it will be up to the mayor to appoint a successor as chairman. The vice chairman is selected by members of the commission. Jones headed the meeting in the absence of a chairman.