Discrimination lawsuit threatened if Kane County rejects drug treatment center
The specter of a possible housing discrimination lawsuit became the focus of closing testimony during a zoning hearing for a pending inpatient drug and alcohol treatment center that wants to locate just outside of Campton Hills on Tuesday night.
Attorneys for Maxxam Partners LLC, the organization behind the pending 120-bed treatment center, said residents who have spoken against the project are voicing the same not-in-my-backyard sentiments that blacks faced while seeking housing before the federal Fair Housing Act.
The difference this time, they said, is that those who are facing discrimination are coping with disabling addiction.
"We might as well put a scarlet letter on them and say, 'If you're in my neighborhood we don't want you'," said F. Keith Brown, the recently retired Kane County chief justice who's now affiliated with Maxxam Partners.
He accused opponents of passing around propaganda fliers and drumming up baseless fears about crime and violence that would perpetrated by patients at the pending facility.
Brown and fellow Maxxam attorney Andrew Kolb said all the studies show inpatient treatment facilities rarely generate any crime in the surrounding community.
"The correct term for the patients of this facility is disabled," Kolb said. "Our patients are not felons. They are not criminals. The Fair Housing Act was designed to prevent this not-in-my-backyard mentality. The federal law mandates that disabled people not be treated with fear ... with anger or with disrespect," Kolb said.
Kevin Carrera, an attorney representing opponents of the project, focused not on discrimination law but on the county's own zoning standards for his closing argument.
Carrera said Maxxam representatives have tried to mislead the zoning board and the community about the true impact of the facility and its daily operation on crime and property values.
Carrera said there is no expert testimony to support Maxxam's claims that the treatment center will generate only five to 10 police and fire calls per year.
In contrast, Kane County Sheriff Don Kramer testified he expected 300 new police calls per year to the facility. And local fire district officials estimated 150 new annual emergency medical calls to the facility.
Carrera said those numbers clearly represent a public safety risk and disruptive traffic on mostly rural roads.
Those are all the reasons to deny the zoning application, which have nothing to do with discrimination, Carrera said.
"The big white elephant in the room is the Fair Housing Act," Carrera said. "Their patients do fall under the Fair Housing Act. However, do not be bullied into thinking that the county gives up every one of its zoning obligations in the face of the Fair Housing Act.
"You have plenty and plenty of information here, based purely on the zoning, not any of the fearmongering or bullying that's out there."
The zoning board is expected to issue a recommendation on Feb. 9. The matter will then move to the county board for a final decision.