Haymarket Center suing Itasca over zoning classification
A Chicago-based nonprofit group that wants to open a drug and alcohol treatment center in Itasca is suing the village over the zoning classification for the project.
Haymarket Center wants to convert a Holiday Inn along Irving Park Road into a 240-bed facility for patients with substance-use disorders. A series of public hearings on the plan started in October and are scheduled to continue next month.
Ultimately, it will be up to the village board to decide if the project can move forward as a planned development.
But in a lawsuit filed Monday in DuPage County, Haymarket argues it should have been allowed to seek a special-use permit to operate as a health care facility.
"As a comprehensive behavioral health provider specializing in the treatment of substance use disorders for more than 45 years, we have always disagreed with Itasca's decision to deny our B-2 special use zoning application for a health care facility, instead requiring us to apply as a planned mixed-use development," Haymarket President and CEO Dan Lustig said in a statement.
On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for Itasca said the village and its attorneys are reviewing the lawsuit. She said it's too early to comment on what is now pending litigation.
In July, Haymarket submitted two zoning applications -- one for a special use as a health care facility and the other for a planned development.
But Itasca's zoning administrator rejected the health care facility application. The administrator believes Haymarket's proposed use of the property represents a mixed use of residential and medical.
Haymarket appealed the decision, but the zoning board denied the appeal. The village board affirmed the denial in September.
Lustig said Haymarket "acted in good faith" and followed the process set forth by the village. The hope was that a decision on the planned development application would be made before the deadline to appeal the ruling on the health care facility application.
But there's been considerable opposition to Haymarket's proposal from residents who say Itasca is too small to support the proposed facility. In addition to costing the town tax revenue by replacing the hotel, they say the center would strain 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.
When Itasca tried to have the first public hearing in September at a junior high, it 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. As a result, the first two public hearings had to be held at a high school in neighboring Roselle.
After a drop in the number of residents attending, the meetings were moved back to Peacock Middle School in Itasca. Still, each meeting has drawn hundreds of people, and there's no indication of when the plan commission will make a recommendation to the village board.
In the meantime, Lustig said, Haymarket must pursue all remedies to address the appeal.
"We remain steadfast in our plans to open a health care center in Itasca," he said, "because we must expand access to vital health care services to address one of the largest public health epidemics in our nation's history."