Des Plaines denies group home's expansion request
The Des Plaines City Council Monday night denied a conditional use permit for a group home to expand after neighbors voiced concerns about how the business is run.
The group home, operating at 965 Willson Drive, is an allowed use in a single-family residential district and permitted by state law to house up to five residents. Municipalities cannot ban group homes because the Fair Housing Act of 1988 labels people with disabilities as a protected class.
However, the issue has been contentious in many suburbs, including most recently in Palatine, where officials are considering making the village code more restrictive after residents expressed concern about a proposed group home for gunshot wound victims and people with head injuries.
In June 2011, the Des Plaines City Council denied another group home operator permission to increase the number of beds from five to eight after numerous complaints from neighbors about parking, traffic, landscaping and decreased property values.
The home on Willson Drive serves people with developmental disabilities. The single-story, four-bedroom home houses five residents with two staff members on duty during the day and one employee supervising at night.
The petitioner, Diane Home Care Inc. of Skokie, sought the conditional use permit to increase the number of residents to eight, said Scott Mangum, city senior planner.
The city's zoning board of appeals recommended the conditional use be denied.
Tom Kucharski, who lives nearby the facility, said the home's appearance is "a disgrace to the neighborhood" with a backyard covered in weeds and vines.
"They made the corrections, but they were forced to do it," Kucharski said. "Per my observations, 95 percent of the time there have been more than six residents besides the staff. Nobody polices this. This is a business venture to me, and their only goal was financial."
Another neighbor, Steve Pagels, agreed and said the city should tighten standards, not allow more people to move in.
"They have frequently disrespected the neighbors by keeping more people here than necessary," he said. "The city should address this issue by coming up with regulation, some form of legislation."
No one from the group home spoke at the meeting.
Des Plaines 1st Ward Alderwoman Patti Haugeberg questioned how often city inspectors check the facility.
Community and Economic Development Director Mike Bartholomew said if a conditional use permit were approved, city staff would do an inspection. And he said in the next few weeks, the city will make spot inspections at all group homes.
Ward 6 Alderman Mark Walsten said the group home operators should be fined if they break the law.
Ward 7 Alderman Dan Wilson agreed. "We have to have penalties in place," he said.