Editorial: Palatine can make a statement on supportive housing
Backers of housing for the mentally disabled in Palatine couldn't have been surprised by neighbors' reactions to the plans. After all, comparable proposals in nearby towns met with similar opposition in recent years.
Surprised or not, advocates and developers will continue to face the challenge of convincing residents, taxpayers, business owners and elected officials that the potential benefits of their supportive housing proposals outweigh any fears and uncertainties. We've stated before that the responsibility to do so remains theirs -- just as it would be for any development.
In Palatine, the proponents have made a strong case for Catherine Alice Gardens, which would offer 33 low-cost apartments to people with mental or physical disabilities who are ready for independent living. Following months of research, negotiation and outreach, developers settled on a site near downtown they believed would fit well in within the village, meet the needs of the tenants and address the public's concerns.
On the first count, the project has done well, as Palatine planners last month favored it 7-1.
As for the tenants' needs, the site offers easy access to shops, restaurants, banks and public transit and would allow many of them to remain close to their families rather than be placed miles away.
Has the developer satisfied public concerns? That depends, of course, on whom you ask. Churches, civic groups, families who deal with mental illness, service providers, veterans organizations and many local businesses have signed on. They have much to gain.
But as with the proposals in Arlington Heights and Wheeling, opponents in Palatine are still raising concerns about home values, costs to taxpayers and safety of both the tenants and nearby residents. All are valid questions to ask. Each has been answered well.
At the core of the complaints, as is typical, is location. Some opponents say the building doesn't belong near other residences, which are about a block north and east of the site. Others say it's in a manufacturing zone and therefore unsafe for the tenants. In other words, there is little chance all will be satisfied unless the building is buffered by acres of open space.
Has anyone in Palatine suggested a more suitable place? Not that we've heard.
What's more, studies have shown that supportive housing brings no decline in value of nearby property and is less expensive to taxpayers than other types of care for the mentally ill. The tenants would be carefully screened and capable of looking out for their safety.
No one wants to be labeled intolerant, but the objections to these types of projects sometimes are a cover for anxieties about mental illness. People fear what they don't understand.
As a community, let's address this fear and act on an obligation to protect those who struggle in life for reasons beyond their control, as well as provide them opportunities to help themselves. On Monday, the Palatine village council will consider the project for a vote. The need is clear and supporters have made a strong case. Now it's just up to council members to do the right thing.