Neighbors oppose possible group home in quiet Palatine neighborhood
Tucked away from two major traffic corridors is a quiet Palatine neighborhood with a park, a pond and a Sikh temple surrounded by relatively new, luxury houses.
Neighbors who want to keep it that way aren't thrilled with the prospect of a group home opening, especially one they've been told might cater to patients recovering from gunshot wounds and brain injuries.
"It changes the whole dynamic of the neighborhood," neighbor Frank Annerino said. "We're concerned about what this will do to property values."
NeuroRestorative, a national residential rehabilitation provider based in Carbondale, is looking to open a facility on the 1100 block of North Deer Avenue, near Dundee Road and Northwest Highway.
State Director Chris Williamson said the company will support "individuals with brain injuries in a warm, stable environment where they can work on developing the skills they need to achieve their individual goals."
Annerino and several neighbors will attend the Palatine Plan Commission meeting at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7, where they'll speak in support of a text amendment aimed at making the village's regulations on group homes more restrictive.
"Ordinances should work to protect residents' safety, enhance property values and prevent adverse living conditions," said Christopher Wheaton, who lives next door.
No municipality can ban a group home outright. The Fair Housing Act of 1988 includes people with disabilities as a protected class and sought to provide more housing options within single-family zoning districts.
But in researching other town's ordinances, Annerino found that many communities, unlike Palatine, require at least a special use to open a group home, resulting in a review by elected officials. Some prohibit certain types of programs, such as group homes that serve as drug treatment centers or halfway houses for ex-convicts.
Annerino said neighbors aren't opposed to a reasonably sized group home -- four individuals would be fine -- that wouldn't disrupt the neighborhood. But they don't support a number higher than that, believing a more crowded home would reduce the level of care, threaten residents' safety and put the focus solely on profits.
The village, which currently has 12 group homes, is proposing its own text amendment that will be discussed at the Plan Commission meeting. It would largely limit group homes to people with mental illness, and prohibit homes from serving populations with substance abuse problems or anyone constituting a "direct threat to the health or safety of other individuals."
The new code would also tie the number of people allowed to the size of the home and number of bedrooms, and require staff and patients to park on the property, not the street.
"We're trying to balance the wishes of the residents while still being in compliance with the standards federal law has laid out," Palatine Village Manager Reid Ottesen said.
Wheaton said there's reason for neighbors to be concerned.
He points to the group home NeuroRestorative operates in Des Plaines, which has prompted numerous complaints about parking, traffic, landscaping and decreased property values.
In June 2011, the Des Plaines city council voted down the company's proposal to increase the number of beds from five to eight. Seventh Ward Alderman Dan Wilson said he's seen up to 14 cars parked in the Berkshire Lane cul-de-sac, and didn't support increasing the home's capacity.
However, Wilson said, Des Plaines had to allow the facility to open despite opposition in order to comply with federal law.
"You don't really have a choice," Wilson said. "The neighbors weren't happy, but it doesn't make a difference. You'd waste a lot of money and time fighting it because the law is on the side of the group home."
Wilson said he's found the company responsive, adding that it quickly fixed the lawn and installed stones to prevent visitors from driving on the grass.
"They've made an effort to fit in the neighborhood," Wilson said.
Williamson said NeuroRestorative is committed to being a good neighbor, and he said staff parking will be off-site at the Palatine home to address concerns.
"We take that obligation very seriously and hope to have a mutually cooperative relationship with our neighbors in Palatine for many years to come," he said.
The homeowner declined to comment.
Wheaton said he understands the homeowner wanting to sell to NeuroRestorative in a depressed housing market, but doesn't think others should be adversely affected because of it. He also worries about the safety of his four daughters.
"It's a 24-hour facility," Wheaton said. "Cars and people will come and go and you don't know who they are."
Ottesen said that all the parties involved have been advised that officials are reviewing the code. He believes that new standards, which will likely go before the village council Feb. 20 for final approval, will be applicable to the proposed group home.