After securing a few concessions from bank representatives based upon objections of commissioners, the Darien Planning and Zoning Commission agreed Wednesday night to recommend approval of a new Chase Bank location at the southeast corner of the intersection of Cass Avenue and 75th Street.
Darien City Planner Mike Griffith began a public hearing on the bank’s plans for the property by noting that Chase was requesting numerous variances from municipal code for the site, including parking setbacks, the number of curb cuts off Cass Avenue, the number of stacking spaces for drive-thru lanes, and the amount of landscaping.
But the most notable variances requested by the bank involved signage. Griffith said the bank was requesting wall signage on all four sides of the building, as opposed to the two sides allowed by city code. Chase also sought approval for an off-premises sign at the intersection of Cass and Plainfield Road.
“The sign is also a lot larger than the code would allow,” Griffith noted.
“My initial impression is you’ve got too many signs,” Commissioner Ken Ritzert told bank representatives. “Other banks in the area don’t have near the signs you’re talking about.”
Commissioners were particularly concerned about a lighted Chase sign on the east side of the building and the impact it might have on a neighboring housing complex. The bank agreed to remove that sign from its plans, as well as take steps to ensure that glare from lighting on that side of the structure is reduced.
Commissioner Donald Hickok expressed initial opposition to Chase’s plans for the parcel.
“I’m really against having another bank here,” he said. “You’ve come in here and you’ve asked for 12 variances.”
Hickok said that usually indicated the property owner was trying to put too much into too small of a lot.
“It is a difficult site,” acknowledged architect Tim Meseck of The Architects Partnership Ltd., a Chicago firm doing the design work for Chase.
Meseck said the site needed multiple access points, including two to the neighboring property to the south, in part because of planned alterations to both Cass Avenue and 75th Street that would limit ingress and egress at the site.
“We’ll basically be landlocked without a full access point,” Meseck said.
He said a sign at Plainfield Road and Cass Avenue at the former BP/Amoco property would help direct traffic to the bank, just as a sign across Cass Avenue directs people to Walgreens.
“It’s kind of a similar scenario, where we would highlight the access point,” Meseck said.
As for landscaping, while the plans do not meet city code for foundation plantings on the drive-thru side of the building, Meseck said there would be many trees, shrubs, and perennials that would provide year-round color throughout the rest of the property.
“We feel it fits very well with the surrounding area,” he said.
“There’s a lot of real nice landscaping,” Commissioner Pauline Oberland said. “It’s going to look really nice.”
“We tried to work some magic on where the building was oriented,” Meseck said. “We really want to be in the community. … We feel it’s a perfect fit for us.”
Bank representatives also agreed to work with the city on any traffic studies that might need to be conducted as a result of the project.
Following Chase’s agreement to that stipulation and the others discussed, commissioners unanimously backed recommending that the city approve Chase’s plans for the site.
The matter next goes to the Municipal Services Committee, which will take it up at its meeting Tuesday night.