Arlington Heights panel narrowly recommends shelter care home's move to residential block

  • The Arlington Heights plan commission Wednesday night voted 5-4 to recommend approval of a special use for a shelter care home for young men at 207-209 E. Valley Lane.

    The Arlington Heights plan commission Wednesday night voted 5-4 to recommend approval of a special use for a shelter care home for young men at 207-209 E. Valley Lane. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted10/21/2021 5:30 AM

An Arlington Heights advisory panel Wednesday night narrowly endorsed a shelter care home's proposed relocation to a neighborhood of residents who largely oppose the move.

The plan commission voted 5-4 to recommend approval of a special use permit and two zoning variations for Shelter Inc. to operate its Transitional Living Program for males ages 17 to 21 inside a duplex at 207-209 E. Valley Lane.

 

The village board will have final say at a meeting yet to be scheduled.

Located just east of Arlington Heights Road in the Ivy Hill neighborhood, the duplex would be the new home for at least six young men served by the Arlington Heights-based nonprofit child welfare agency. The move is prompted by the sale of a smaller house the agency leases at 397 W. Golf Road -- a largely commercial area.

Officials at Shelter Inc. say the list price -- more than $2 million -- isn't feasible for the nonprofit to purchase, so they went looking for a new home.

The 1½-hour Wednesday plan commission meeting -- held virtually due to concerns about the potential number of meeting attendees and social distancing -- followed a four-hour session Sept. 22, when the panel deadlocked on a 4-4 vote.

Mary Jo Warskow, the commission member absent last time, cast the tiebreaking vote Wednesday night, saying Shelter Inc.'s request meets the criteria for a special use under village zoning rules.

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"I do have personal experiences with young people who have had troubles. ... It does impact how I think about that particular issue and I do not feel that it is a detriment to that neighborhood," said Warskow, who grew up on Knob Hill Drive -- the next block over.

Bruce Green, a fellow commissioner, sought to postpone a new vote indefinitely, which effectively would have let the 4-4 tally on Sept. 22 stand. Because of that tie, the plan commission had 30 days -- until this Friday -- to revote and forward a recommendation to the village board.

Green's motion to postpone failed 6-3.

"I don't think this commission should sell out the neighborhood," he said. "There are other spots for this house to be. It doesn't have to be in the middle of a neighborhood."

Joining Green in voting not to recommend were Jay Cherwin, Joseph Lorenzini and John Sigalos.

Along with Warskow, yes votes were cast by Chair Susan Dawson, Terry Ennes, George Drost and Lynn Jensen.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

After the vote, residents on both sides of the issue weighed in. Opponents, including nearly 400 who submitted a petition to the village, argue the shelter home would hinder safety in the neighborhood, while supporters say the move would help Arlington Heights live up to its motto of being the "City of Good Neighbors."

In their review of the zoning application, the village's community development department staff said it could not support the request, citing the potential for police calls to double.

Shelter Inc. has proposed housing a dozen residents at its new location -- double the number who currently live on Golf Road. But under the recommendation forwarded to the village board, the plan commission included a condition to limit capacity to six, or one per bedroom.

Over the last decade, there have been 553 calls for police service to Shelter Inc.'s Golf Road home: 65% for curfew violations, or missing person reports; 21% for well-being checks; and 9% for criminal incidents and public complaint, including domestic disturbances, unwanted subjects, thefts and drug possession, according to village officials.

But over the last five years, calls for service have declined by 75%, village officials said, as Shelter Inc. has enhanced screening of the individuals approved for the program and clinical services.

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