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Government

Wheaton City Council votes to turn down proposed drug treatment center

The Wheaton City Council has decided putting a 16-bed inpatient addiction treatment center in the former Loyola University Medical Center building at 140 E. Loop Road is not an appropriate use for the C-5 Planned Commercial District.
The Wheaton City Council has decided putting a 16-bed inpatient addiction treatment center in the former Loyola University Medical Center building at 140 E. Loop Road is not an appropriate use for the C-5 Planned Commercial District.

WHEATON – The Wheaton City Council has decided putting a 16-bed inpatient addiction treatment center in the former Loyola University Medical Center building at 140 E. Loop Road is not an appropriate use for the district.

Following public opposition to the proposal, City Council members on Feb. 5 unanimously voted to direct Wheaton City Attorney James Knippen to draft an ordinance to deny Haymarket DuPage's application. Haymarket DuPage requested the council 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.

Wheaton Planning and Zoning Board members on Jan. 23 unanimously recommended against granting the text amendment.

"I don't support the text amendment because it would permit a use which is not compatible with the philosophy underpinning the establishment of these commercial districts," City Council member John Prendiville said.

Wheaton Mayor Michael Gresk agreed.

"Zoning is your friend," Gresk said. "We have zoning for a reason. This is why they can't put a Kentucky Fried Chicken next to your house."

City Council member Suzanne Fitch complimented Haymarket Center on the services it provides.

"I want to thank Haymarket Center for the work that they do and wish them the best in developing a plan to serve the needs of DuPage County," she said.

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

Prior to the vote, Haymarket Center President and CEO Dr. Dan Lustig told City Council members he believes opioid addiction "is one of the largest and biggest public health [crises] that we have seen in this country."

He said there is a lot of misinformation surrounding Haymarket's operations.

"We do not have substance abusers or dealers coming in and selling drugs to individuals within our facility or around our facility," Lustig said. "We take what we do very, very seriously, and we are very respectful of the neighborhood that we are in. We do not have individuals that are shooting up in our parking lots. We want to be very respectful of the community. I want to be sensitive to the area, which is why we have taken the opportunity to meet with individuals who had serious issues about the text amendment, and we've tried to address them."

During the meeting, residents repeated their concerns about the proposal. Danada East resident Angela Welker told City Council members the proposed residential drug treatment program would be much more "intensive" than an outpatient drug treatment program.

"Residential treatment is high-intensity treatment," Welker said. "It's much more comparable to an emergency room than it is to a pediatrician's office. And as far as locations go, DuPage does have eight locations that provide this type of treatment. Four of them are on or adjacent to hospitals. The other four are actually in the hospitals ... A commercial area is not appropriate for this intensity of treatment."

Attorney Phillip Coover, who represents the Rice Lake Square shopping center, located near the proposed drug treatment center, said his clients "have invested millions of dollars into this community, relying on the C-5 zoning stated purpose."

"And we would request that the city uphold the C-5 zoning, which is for retail and service commercial businesses, which maximizes aesthetics and are the preferred type of development," Coover said.

Knippen told audience members the council can only address the issue of whether the zoning ordinance should be changed to allow a residential use in a commercial district.

"The issue of the text amendment is whether or not the text of the ordinance should be changed to allow a residential use or a residential-type use in a commercial zoning district that does not provide for residential uses," Knippen said.

Wheaton resident Steve Kulovits, who lives on Jahns Drive, said the C-5 zoning district "is designed to generate sales and property tax revenues for the city."

"The comprehensive plan calls these zones our economic engines," he said. "And they are. Over 40 of the top 50 sales taxpayers in the city of Wheaton reside in our C-5 districts. Thirty-five of the 50 reside in the Danada C-5 district. Businesses like Whole Foods, Sierra Trading Post, PDQ, Pete's Fresh Market and Starbucks have invested millions of dollars on the assumption that their customers will find this area to be a shopping destination."

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