ELMHURST, Ill. (CBS) — A neighborhood in west suburban Elmhurst is an uproar about a house serving as a home for former addicts.
The house has been in violation of city code for more than a year. And as CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported Wednesday night, neighbors are fighting a zoning change that would legitimize it and allow for the seven people living in the house to stay there.
This is not your typical not-in-my-backyard story. The people living in the area are not opposed to a recovery home. What they don’t like is the way the City of Elmhurst, or the property owner, are going about it.
The house in question is an unassuming one on a quiet Elmhurst block – except, that is, for a sign in front that notifies neighbors of a pending conditional use permit – or a zoning change – allowing it to become approved as a so-called sober house for seven people.
“We actually are OK with the concept of a sober house in our neighborhood,” said Adam Smeets, who lives on the block.
But there is a “but.”
“I have issue with seven or eight unrelated persons living there,” said Anne Anderson.
Currently, Elmhurst code only allows four unrelated people to live in a single-family house. These neighbors want it to stay that way.
“When we move into a seven-plus occupancy – where we are now operating as a multi-apartment complex – there are a whole host of other issues that come along with that,” Smeets said.
Among the issues, Smeets said, are safety and lack of recovery programs.
A group called Carpenter’s Tools Ministry runs the home. Its president, Jay Webb, said it greatly helps recovering addicts transition back into society – adding there is no drinking or drug use allowed.
But neighbors point to past problems.
“There’s been a lot of negative activity,” Anderson said.
The reasons for concern, neighbors said, include a man who died of an apparent overdose and wasn’t found for days. The neighbors were ready to speak up again this week.
“Our last committee meeting – the public comment period was pushed off to the end of the meeting,” Smeets said.
Smeets believes that is a violation of the Open Meetings Act, and sent a letter to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office asking for an investigation.
No one with the City of Elmhurst agreed to an on-camera interview. But city planners provided us with a statement, saying Carpenter’s Tools Ministries provided the city with an abundance of information, and that it plans to recommend a zoning change if seven conditions are met.
However, Elmhurst’s planner did not address claims that it violated the Open Meetings Act.