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Government

Wheaton planners reject proposed drug treatment center

Wheaton City Council to consider proposal Feb. 5

Wheaton Planning and Zoning Board members on Jan. 23 unanimously decided putting a 16-bed inpatient addiction treatment center in the former Loyola University Medical Center building at 140 E. Loop Road would not be an appropriate use for the district.
Wheaton Planning and Zoning Board members on Jan. 23 unanimously decided putting a 16-bed inpatient addiction treatment center in the former Loyola University Medical Center building at 140 E. Loop Road would not be an appropriate use for the district.

WHEATON – Wheaton Planning and Zoning Board members on Jan. 23 unanimously decided putting a 16-bed inpatient addiction treatment center in the former Loyola University Medical Center building at 140 E. Loop Road would not be an appropriate use for the district.

Board members unanimously recommended turning down an application by Haymarket DuPage to amend the city's zoning ordinance to add "residential (in-patient) treatment facilities" to the list of uses requiring a special-use permit in the C-5 Planned Commercial District. The Wheaton City Council will now consider the matter at its Feb. 5 meeting.

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.

Board Chairman Scott Weller said he didn't think the proposed treatment facility was an appropriate use in a commercial district.

"I am optimistic there remains a place for this group in our town," Weller said.

Other board members had similar comments.

"This is a tough decision for us up here," member Mark Plunkett said. "We find ourselves sometimes in no-win situations... I personally feel there is very much a need for this type of service in our community."

Those for and against the plan to open in Wheaton packed a Jan. 9 Planning and Zoning Board meeting where the proposal was being discussed. 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 had said. "We bought our homes here in good faith, believing the intent of the zoning code and comprehensive plan would be upheld."

Haymarket Center President and CEO Dr. Dan Lustig had 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 had 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."

In DuPage County, there were 51 deaths in 2015 attributed to opioids, including heroin, fentanyl and prescription pills, DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin said in December 2017, in announcing lawsuits against the biggest opioid pharmaceutical manufacturers in an attempt to recoup costs of battling an epidemic of addiction. In 2016, that number rose to 78, and last year, there were more than 80 deaths attributable to opioids, he said.

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