DOWNERS GROVE – A month-long campaign opposing plans to convert a shuttered Walgreens into a dog boarding and day care facility failed May 16 as the Downers Grove Village Council approved the proposal, which includes an outdoor play area that can accommodate about 30 dogs.
The play area was the primary concern of residents who live near the facility, located in the Downers Park Plaza. They argued that constant barking emanating from the outdoor facility would diminish property values and negatively impact their quality of life.
Commissioners voted 5-2 in favor of the plan, which was presented by Pete and Mac’s Pet Resort, a Mesa, Ariz.-based company with similar facilities in Arizona, Missouri and Kansas.
The company sought a special-use permit to include cat and dog boarding and dog day care at the facility at 7221 Lemont Road.
Plans call for the outdoor play area to be surrounded by an 8-foot fence. Sound baffles would be installed to reduce the sound of barking. The play area would be located behind the building and face homes on Main Street.
Commissioners Nicole Walus and William Waldack voted against the plan.
“There is no upside here,” Waldack said. “Thirty-five dogs. After three or four, does it matter? As elected officials, are we going to tell [the residents] we know better?"
Residents attended a Plan Commission meeting and three Village Council meetings to express opposition. A petition signed by 179 residents was submitted to the council. Several residents emailed Mayor Martin Tully and commissioners to voice their concerns.
Waldack’s call to amend the proposal and move the play area indoors failed by a 5-2 vote. However, an amendment to the special-use permit limiting the number of dogs at the facility to 94 was approved.
Commissioners who favored the plan said the outdoor play facility will not present the problems anticipated by residents.
“Once this is up and running, it will not be as bad as everyone thinks it will be,” commissioner Bill White said.
Commissioner Marge Earl said the dogs will be supervised while outside, which should limit barking.
“Any business in Walgreens will make more noise than an empty Walgreens,” she said. “There is a great distance from the mall to the sidewalk.”
Commissioner Bob Barnett said while residents have rights, they're "not entitled to no change."
"People will have to endure change," he said.
Pete and Mac’s officials did not address the council, but CEO Bryan Spain said after the vote there is no timeline for opening the facility.
Resident Marvin Schaar, who served as a spokesman for his neighbors, said the council should not “look to the welfare of the shopping center” before the interests of the neighborhood.
“We’re talking about 35 dogs 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day," he said.