ELBURN – After an extensive public hearing – where residents asked questions, expressed concerns and a few expressed support – the Elburn Plan Commission unanimously voted to recommend approval for an addiction treatment center to open on the former Great Lakes Leadership Campus on the north side of town.
The matter of whether to grant the special use permit to the proposed Illinois Holistic Addiction Treatment Center will now go before the Village Board for a final vote.
The proposed center needs a special use permit to open its 40-bed residential treatment center for drug and alcohol addiction because the site where it would be located is zoned residential. The special use would be for a medical facility, one of the allowed special uses in that area.
Located at 526 N. Main St., the building on the Great Lakes Leadership Campus has been used by numerous churches, companies and individuals for retreats, summer camps, outings, banquets and training sessions. It is currently owned by the Church of God Great Lakes Regional Office.
The building, a 19-room mansion built in the late 1800s as a residence for Elburn resident and businessman John Stewart – along with the 10 acres of property surrounding it – is currently for sale through Coldwell Banker Commercial Real Estate.
During the public hearing, Thomas Dean, chief operating officer of the Miami Holistic Addiction Treatment Center and the petitioner for the special use in Elburn, explained the nature of the facility and the treatment program and responded to questions from residents.
He said that the facility would be a private, for-profit residential treatment center, where people with an addiction to alcohol or drugs would receive up to 45 days of in-patient treatment. He explained that the clients will be adults 18 years of age and older who are coming into the program voluntarily.
He said the people who are accepted into the program will not be using drugs or alcohol while they are there. There will be 24-hour supervision, and the property will be a closed campus, which means that clients would not be out and about in the general population of the town.
But some residents living near the facility expressed that they still had concerns about the safety of their neighborhood with such a facility so close. Amy Dimitri said she and her family moved to the area because it seemed like such a friendly and safe neighborhood.
“It’s been blissful,” she said. “I don’t want to see what I’ve come to love here change.”
She said she doesn’t want to have to worry about the safety of hers and her neighbors’ children and whether someone in a car is going to stop and try to sell drugs to them.
“Do I need to get an alarm?” she asked. “Do I need to not let my kids out to play?”
Christy Voegele, who owns the pre-school housed in the Elburn and Countryside Community Center, said that parents of the children in her school have come to her with worries about the center. There is a playground at the community center, and Voegele wanted to know what would prevent someone from leaving the treatment center and hiding in the bushes on her property.
But the Rev. Gary Augustine, who lives on the property and is a pastor at the Elburn Hill Church there, said he has 11 grandchildren, and several of them at a time regularly spend the night at his house. He said that he doesn’t fear for their safety.
He also responded to those who said they were concerned that the center would negatively affect property values.
“Change is coming. That property is not going to stay the same,” he said. “The change that we have here is something we can regulate. There are things that could be way worse.”
He said that the building has not been in use for some time now, and there are several expensive maintenance issues that need to be addressed. He said that if the property remains empty, it will continue to be neglected, and that will surely negatively impact property values.
“I’m very much in favor of this [treatment center],” he said.
Paul Stover had a pragmatic question for Dean. Although the majority of Dean’s clients will either have insurance or will pay for treatment themselves, he said that he will sometimes offer scholarships to people who are committed to treatment but don’t have the ability to pay.
“Would you be open to have a scholarship for the Kaneland area?” Stover asked him.
Dean replied that he would definitely be willing to do that.
During the course of the meeting, Dean agreed to several additional conditions requested by commissioners. He agreed to a stipulation that his treatment program will remain residential, and not an outpatient program, where people would come and go.
He also agreed to work with the village in terms of egress into and out of the property, to ensure that people will not be able to use their neighborhood street as a thoroughfare.
When Commissioner Sue Filek, who noted that safety continued to be an issue for the residents, asked whether Dean would be amenable to stationing a security guard overnight at an exit, he said he would.
As of press time, the special use request is scheduled to come before the Village Board at its June 19 meeting.