WHEATON – The former Wheaton Inn building at 301 W. Roosevelt Road has moved another step toward becoming a facility for new and expectant single mothers.
The Wheaton City Council on Nov. 21 unanimously directed the city attorney to prepare ordinances that would allow the facility to locate in the building. The 19,800-square-foot, three-story building is zoned for office research use.
City Council members are set to vote on those ordinances in December. The applicant would be required to buffer the property from an adjoining neighbor. The city's Planning and Zoning Board on Nov. 8 voted 5-1 to recommend approval of the plans.
"I see a social need here that we can meet," South District councilman John Rutledge said, in voting to support the project. "This is a caring community, and I think this is an opportunity to meet a need."
He added the demand for office space has diminished, and he would rather see the building filled than vacant. The Wheaton Inn originally was built in 1987 and most recently was used as office space by an investment company that relocated to Downers Grove in 2014.
Wheaton Mayor Michael Gresk also said he was in favor of the project.
"I hope they can be a good neighbor," he said. "I hope they will put in any screening and buffering that is needed."
A resident living near the property objected to the plans, saying the building should be used for office-research.
In response, Greg Dose, attorney for the applicant, told city officials the facility will be a "far less active property than it was as the Wheaton Inn, and it will be far less active than it was in its brief duration as office use."
Dose said the applicant would be agreeable to installing a fence to protect surrounding neighbors.
"I think it's going to be a small, quiet and appropriate use at this location," he said.
Another resident voiced concerns about the taxes that would be lost on the property if city officials approved the proposal. In addition, Planning and Zoning Board member Ron Almiron, who was the sole member to vote against the plans, urged City Council members to carefully review the plans.
"My concern is that special use is special use," he said. "And I don't think that the City Council should bend over backwards to add a special use, adding another text amendment to the special use ordinance, just to accommodate what I believe is a very new and novel and unproven entity."
The Clarendon Hills-based company Love From Above plans to offer a two-year transitional housing program for women 18 to 26 years old and serve both expectant mothers and single mothers in DuPage County. The facility would serve as many as 12 women who find themselves in "crisis pregnancies," said Yvonne Florczak-Seeman, president and founder of Love From Above.
This would be the company's first facility, which will be called The Butterfly Garden...A Place for Healing and Transformation. The women would have to be enrolled in college to participate in the program, Florczak-Seeman said.
Wheaton East District councilman Thor Saline asked Florczak-Seeman for assurances the facility wouldn't be disruptive.
"We are looking for applicants who are looking to use us as a stepping stone to move further in their lives," she said, in addressing Saline. "It's not going to be a sorority house. We aren't going to have live bands or DJs. We are teaching these young girls, who are in an unplanned pregnancy, to either learn how to become a mother or make the decision of adoption."
Visitors would not be allowed, Florczak-Seeman said.