Haymarket ready to resume bid to open rehab center in Itasca

After an eight-month delay, Haymarket Center says it's ready to resume public hearings on its plan to open a drug and alcohol treatment center in Itasca.

This time, the Chicago-based nonprofit will use new experts and updated information to try to persuade village officials to support the controversial proposal.

Itasca announced Thursday that Haymarket has submitted a cover letter and 10 new documents to supplement its application to convert a former hotel building at 860 W. Irving Park Road into a 240-bed facility for adult patients with substance use and behavioral health disorders.

Haymarket initially filed its application in July 2019 and tried for months to get village approval. But hundreds of people opposed to the project packed school gymnasiums when the village's plan commission starting hosting public hearings in October.

Then the process was put on hold - first because of a lawsuit Haymarket filed against the village that was dismissed, and then because of state-imposed restrictions to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

"The delay in the zoning process due to the coronavirus pandemic gave us an opportunity to work with independent experts to answer questions that have been raised and to make adjustments to our plan in response to concerns we have heard from village officials and community members," Dan Lustig, Haymarket's president and CEO, said in a written statement Friday.

Lustig said Haymarket, which bought the former hotel building earlier this year, hopes to secure approval this year "so that we can open our facility as soon as possible to meet the growing need during these unprecedented times."

Village officials said in a statement that they are reviewing the new documents and "will work with the plan commission to set future public hearing dates." Procedures for the hearings will be adjusted to comply with COVID-19 health and safety recommendations for public meetings, they said.

Once the plan commission completes its review, it will be up to the village board to decide if the project can move forward as a planned development.

New documents submitted by Haymarket include a public safety impact report, a traffic and parking impact study, a revised landscape plan, and a report looking at the fiscal and economic impact of the proposed facility.

On Friday, one critic of the project said the new approach by Haymarket "seems to be an acknowledgment that the previous effort fell short."

"It appears Haymarket would like a complete redo by resubmitting almost an entirely new proposal in the middle of a hearing," said James Diestel, a member of the Concerned Citizens of Itasca group.

In response to concerns raised by Itasca Elementary District 10, Haymarket says it will restrict children from the proposed facility by eliminating a program that allows young children to accompany their mothers who are in treatment.

Opponents have argued that the proposed facility would strain police and emergency services. The Itasca Fire Protection District has one ambulance.

According to the public safety impact report submitted by Haymarket, the proposed facility is projected to require 55 to 73 police responses and 18 to 26 fire and EMS calls each year. Meanwhile, Haymarket has a contract with Elite Ambulance to handle the majority of the ambulance calls.

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