Wheaton advisory panel votes against drug treatment center plan
A Chicago nonprofit group has suffered a setback in its effort to open a drug and alcohol treatment center in Wheaton.
The planning and zoning board is recommending city council members deny a text amendment that would allow Haymarket Center to use a long-vacant building near a Danada shopping center for a satellite program to provide both outpatient care and residential treatment for patients with substance abuse disorders.
Staff planner Tracy Jones said the seven-member advisory panel voted unanimously Tuesday to reject the proposal.
"Basically, the consensus of the board was that it didn't fit the character of the zoning district," she said, adding that residential uses aren't allowed in the area designed to accommodate retail and service businesses. "They just didn't feel it met the character of it."
The final decision, however, will rest with the city council and Haymarket CEO Dr. Dan Lustig said Wednesday his group will wait for that ruling before determining how to proceed.
"We were very disappointed, but we do know that if you take a look at what they said, there is a strong need in the community," Lustig said. "We're going to continue to see what the city council has to say on the matter because I think the need is there. We hope we can get to some resolution whether it's this location or another location."
The recommendation came two weeks after an overflow crowd packed a public hearing and provided more than three hours of comments to the planning and zoning board.
Neighbors and nearby shopping center owners already have hired lawyers to voice their opposition to the plan. Meanwhile, the most emotional pleas in support of Haymarket Center's proposal have come from family members who lost loved ones to heroin overdoses and blame the uproar on the stigma associated with drug use.
The proposal comes amid a rising death toll from overdoses across the suburbs. In 2017, DuPage County recorded 95 confirmed opioid-related deaths, the same number as 2016, according to the coroner's office.
Haymarket Center, a nonprofit group that operates a 400-bed complex in Chicago, wants to provide both inpatient and outpatient care in a vacant medical office building next to a day-care center and in front of a shopping center that includes a movie theater and a toy store.
If built, the center would serve patients 18 and older in a one-story building with round-the-clock security. Surveillance cameras would look out onto the parking lot.
However, those measures didn't reassure residents worried about crime, loitering and property values if a drug-treatment center opens on the property on East Loop Road.
Jones said the city council is expected to vote on the proposal during its Feb. 5 meeting. She said public comment will be allowed.
Council members aren't obligated to follow the planning and zoning board's recommendation.
"It's totally up to the council what they want to do," Jones said. "However the vote goes is whether it's approved or denied."
• Daily Herald staff writer Katlyn Smith contributed to this report.