Disabled housing proposal causes stir in Wheeling
A new supportive housing complex for low-income residents with disabilities may be coming to Wheeling next year, but some neighbors have concerns about what the complex will mean for the area.
Daveri Development Group LLC proposed PhilHaven, a 50-unit building made up of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments for low-income residents with physical and/or mental disabilities.
Daveri Development was also behind a similar project that was rejected in Arlington Heights in 2010. Vice President Jessica Berzac said the Wheeling plan is not in response to that, but a continuation of a plan to create permanent supportive housing across the Northwest suburbs.
A similar 39-unit building was approved in Mount Prospect and construction will begin this year.
PhilHaven will be backed by Alexian Brothers Health System and the Kenneth Young Center, an Elk Grove Village nonprofit, which will provide case management and services for residents, said Mark Bruski, CEO of the Kenneth Young Center.
More than 80 residents filled a Wheeling Plan Commission meeting Thursday to voice their opinions and hear more about the project.
Most opposition came from neighboring residents living in the Lakeside Villas subdivision to the north, or Prospect Heights homes to the south.
Some supporters were from Wheeling, but many were from other suburbs, and were there to support this type of housing in general.
Funding for the nearly $13 million building will come from a variety of sources including tax credits, grants and federal funding.
Tenants will be referred from the Cook County Section 8 waiting list and other service providers. Bruski said residents will be screened before being accepted, and people with felonies or other dangerous behavior on their records will not be allowed.
A nonlicensed, residential manager would live at the facility 24/7 and three case managers from Alexian will help residents with therapy, job searching, socialization and more, Berzac said.
As neighbors questioned them about the project, Bruski and experts from Alexian Brothers defended the independent-living model.
"They can be good neighbors too. People who will live here are community members just like anybody else," Bruski said. "They have some other problems too, but that doesn't mean they can't be good members of the community."
Berzac said they have been talking with neighbors and are willing to accommodate some concerns, adding a fence to the north and west sides of the property, for instance.
Sheri Hickey lives across Hintz Road from the site and said she is concerned about safety. Both Wheeling High School and Tarkington Elementary School are nearby.
Dave Becker, who owns the Wheeling Auto Center directly east of the site, said he is concerned that an overflow of cars will disturb his business and questioned the idea of tenants living there unsupervised.
"What if the residents don't follow the plan and wander around the neighborhood causing trouble?" Becker said.
Other residents questioned how the building would affect their property values, and when Berzac said the $13 million building would probably enhance the area, the audience laughed and shouted their disbelief until plan commissioners quieted them.
The plan also faced questions about parking and flood control during the nearly five-hour meeting.
Developers are asking to reduce the required number of parking spaces that a typical multifamily residence of this size would require, saying most tenants will not own cars, but will use bikes or public transportation.
Several parents of children with mental illness spoke up in support of the complex.
Star Roberts, an Arlington Heights resident and co-president of NAMI Northwest Suburban, said she supports the plan and was disappointed by the close-mindedness displayed by some residents.
"These people protesting don't realize that this could be their child one day that could develop mental illness, then they'll understand," said Roberts, whose son committed suicide 12 years ago after battling bipolar disorder.
"It didn't surprise me, but it's just sad they can't understand how much this is needed," she added.
Although Commissioner Terry Steilen had questions about some technicalities of the plan, he said he supported the idea behind the development, citing his cousin with Down syndrome who lived in a similar facility.
"The freedom that facility gave him made it the happiest time of his life," Steilen said.
Discussion on the project was tabled until the next meeting of the plan commission on March 22.