Twice-delayed hearing on Haymarket addiction treatment center set for Wednesday at Lake Park High
After months of anticipation and two delays, Itasca is poised to have its first public hearing on a controversial plan to open an addiction treatment facility in town.
This time, the village should have a venue large enough for what's expected to be a massive crowd.
Itasca's plan commission on Wednesday night will host the first of several public hearings on Haymarket Center's proposal to convert a hotel into a treatment facility for patients with substance abuse disorders. The 7 p.m. meeting will be in the gymnasium at Lake Park High School's west campus, 500 W. Bryn Mawr Ave, in Roselle.
"Residents in the community are waiting for their chance to say what's on their mind," said James Diestel, a member of the Concerned Citizens of Itasca group that's working to block Haymarket's plan. "It feels like everybody has their own thoughts of how this plays out. They want to voice their opinion about how it will personally affect them."
The controversy surrounding Haymarket's plan began in June when the Chicago-based nonprofit treatment provider announced it wanted to buy the Holiday Inn on the west side of I-290 and Irving Park Road and convert it into what it says will be a roughly 200-bed drug and alcohol treatment center.
Politicians, advocates and other nonprofit groups threw their support behind Haymarket, saying the proposed facility would, among other things, help address the suburban opioid crisis.
But the project is facing strong opposition from residents.
One of the main concerns is that Itasca is too small to support what village officials say will be a 272-bed facility. In addition to costing the town tax revenue, the center would put a strain on police and emergency services. The fire protection district has one ambulance and needed voters to approve a property tax hike last fall to help balance its budget.
"We agree there's an opioid crisis. We want everybody to get treatment," Diestel said. "But there are ramifications to putting a huge facility in a very small town."
Anyone driving though the village can see the roughly 1,200 "No Haymarket" yard signs distributed by the Concerned Citizens of Itasca. There's also a Facebook group called "No Itasca Haymarket" with more than 1,600 members.
When Itasca tried to have the public hearing last month at a junior high, the meeting had to be postponed after more than 1,300 people filled the gym and cafeteria -- and 200 to 300 more were waiting to get in.
The public hearing was delayed a second time when village officials couldn't secure a large enough venue in time to have an Oct. 2 meeting.
In the end, the decision was made to move the meeting outside Itasca to the high school in neighboring Roselle. Officials said the gymnasium has the capacity to hold 2,250 people.
Haymarket is expected to take at least two meetings, each three hours, to present its proposal, village officials said.
Founded in 1975, Haymarket is making its second attempt at opening a recovery center in DuPage County. Nearly 100 people died from drug overdoses last year in the county, and nearly 2,000 residents from DuPage and other collar counties were patients at Haymarket clinics from 2017 to 2018.
Haymarket President and CEO Dan Lustig said in a statement that the organization is eager to talk about how the proposed Itasca facility would save lives "by providing critical services for those suffering from mental health and substance abuse disorders."
"I'm hopeful the community will listen to our proposal with open minds and allow us the chance to show what a great neighbor Haymarket can be," Lustig said.
But Diestel said he's surprised that Haymarket didn't abandon its plan for Itasca after the concerns raised by residents. "Maybe it's best if they find another location that addresses a lot of the concerns that we've brought up," he said.