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Wheaton drug treatment center meeting draws packed audience

Residents for and against plan speak at planning and zoning meeting

WHEATON – Those for and against a plan to open a 16-bed inpatient addiction treatment center in the former Loyola University Medical Center office building in Wheaton packed a Jan. 9 Wheaton Planning and Zoning Board meeting where the proposal was being discussed.

The meeting was a continuation of a public hearing on a text amendment and special-use permit for the treatment center proposed for 140 E. Loop Road.

Haymarket DuPage would be run by the Chicago-based Haymarket Center, which has treatment facilities in Chicago and Waukegan. The proposed center also would provide outpatient care.

Planning and Zoning Board members plan to vote on the proposal at their next meeting at 7 p.m. Jan. 23 in the Wheaton City Council chambers of Wheaton City Hall, 303 W. Wesley St.

Among those speaking against the proposal was former board member Ron Almiron, who is running for the DuPage County Board. Almiron said the proposed plan does not conform with the city's comprehensive plan.

"It would be disruptive to the area," he said. "It would be a square peg in a round hole. If the city were to attract Edward-Elmhurst Health to open up a satellite facility [there], that would be a higher and better use of the property."

Residents living near the proposed center repeated concerns the facility would increase crime in the area and decrease property values.

Danada East resident Gwen Lampert, who has a background in the commercial and residential real estate business, contended the proposed center would adversely affect the area.

"This zoning action would lead to a decrease in demand for homes in the neighborhood," she said. "We bought our homes here in good faith, believing the intent of the zoning code and comprehensive plan would be upheld."

Wheaton resident and pulmonary nurse Loretta Odom spoke in support of the proposed center.

"From my professional and personal view, early intervention is the key," Odom said, in addressing board members. "Opioid use lives right here in Wheaton. We have the ability to help friends and neighbors."

Her brother, Michael Sahara, suffered a drug-induced stroke a few years ago that left him without the use of his right arm, Odom said. In addition, he walks with a limp and has speech problems.

A 1976 Glenbard West High School graduate, Sahara started experimenting with drugs while in high school, she said.

Haymarket Center President and CEO Dr. Dan Lustig told board members the facility would primarily serve DuPage County residents.

"Haymarket Center, in all of its locations, addresses the needs of the location that we are in," Lustig said. "Haymarket DuPage's goal is to address the concerns of DuPage County residents. That is why we are here."

He also said Haymarket Center prides itself on being "a good neighbor."

"We are not here to reduce property values," Lustig said. "Making treatment available should be worn as a badge of honor, no different than establishing a cancer treatment center or a cardiac care center here. But the reality is, when you do mention addiction, it does bring up a lot of negativity and a lot of stigma that is being demonstrated I think here today."

Haymarket Center was founded in 1975. Its main location in Chicago is a 400-bed residential complex in the Fulton Market neighborhood. Lustig has said the center blends well into the neighborhood.

"In this heavily gentrifying West Loop neighborhood, property values have only gone up around us in recent years, with dozens of new restaurants, tech firms and residential development moving in, like Google, McDonald's, Facebook, etc.," Lustig said.


What's next

Wheaton Planning and Zoning Board members plan to vote on the proposal at their next meeting at 7 p.m. Jan. 23 in the Wheaton City Council chambers of Wheaton City Hall, 303 W. Wesley St.

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