Itasca officials silent on reason for Haymarket decision

  • The Itasca village board on Tuesday night unanimously declined a proposal to convert a former Holiday Inn into a treatment center for people with drug and alcohol addictions.

    The Itasca village board on Tuesday night unanimously declined a proposal to convert a former Holiday Inn into a treatment center for people with drug and alcohol addictions. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 11/4/2021 4:09 PM

Itasca elected officials remained tight-lipped one day after rejecting a controversial proposal to open a drug and alcohol treatment center in the village.

Trustees needed barely 15 minutes on Tuesday night to unanimously decline Haymarket Center's request to turn a former hotel into a 240-bed rehab facility. The vote came after two years of deliberation and hundreds of hours of testimony.

 

Itasca Mayor Jeff Pruyn read a prepared statement before the decision, his first extensive comments on Haymarket's plans. "Early on, it was clear the potential financial burden of Haymarket would be heavy on Itasca," Pruyn said.

But on Wednesday, Pruyn and the village trustees were refusing to comment. They didn't respond to emails and phone calls.

A spokeswoman for the village said none of the elected officials are willing to provide further comments about their votes.

"The village trustees and president want the words and actions from last night's meeting to be their only comment for now," spokeswoman Lissa Druss said.

Druss didn't explain why.

Haymarket, meanwhile, is considering its options. The nonprofit group owns the Holiday Inn property along Irving Park Road, where it wanted to provide treatment for people with substance use disorders.

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"It's these types of issues that might have to play itself out in a court of law," Haymarket President and CEO Dan Lustig said after Tuesday's vote. "And I think that's really where important decisions like this possibly belong."

Last week, Haymarket attorney Bridget O'Keefe argued there's no legitimate reason under the Fair Housing Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and a section of the Rehabilitation Act to reject Haymarket's application. She said Haymarket satisfied the zoning code standards and did its best to address the village's concerns. Additionally, all three federal laws prohibit discrimination against those in recovery.

O'Keefe said the village failed to reasonably accommodate Haymarket as required under anti-discrimination laws by not classifying Haymarket as a health care facility early on in the zoning process.

"Their vote to deny our zoning application in no way weakens our resolve to bring these much needed services to DuPage," Karen Kissel, Haymarket's senior executive vice president, said in a statement on Thursday. "We'll continue to fight because we know how much is at stake."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

On Tuesday night, Pruyn and Trustee Ellen Leahy were the only elected officials to say why they don't support Haymarket's proposal.

While Pruyn and Leahy agreed there is a crucial need for a drug treatment facility in DuPage County, they said the scale of the proposed treatment center was too much for a town of fewer than 10,000 people to absorb.

James Diestel, a member of the Concerned Citizens of Itasca, said on Wednesday that he was pleased with the village's board's decision. He said the size of Haymarket's proposed facility is unreasonable for one of the smallest villages in DuPage.

"There's definitely the stigma of drug addiction, and I hope people have their eyes open to seeing how it affects everyone," Diestel said. "But they (Haymarket officials) wasted so much money and so much time on a proposal that just would not work."

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