WOODSTOCK – A Skokie company wants to convert a $5.2 million Hartland Township home into a substance abuse rehabilitation facility, but township officials and residents are standing up against the project, worried the center would disrupt the quiet community.
On Thursday, the McHenry County Zoning Board will review an application from Dunham Property Holdings to change zoning on a seven-bedroom, 12-bathroom estate at 19802 Dunham Road in Woodstock – a property that includes more than 20,000 square feet of space spread over three levels, a swimming pool and access to a pond, according to county zoning documents. Built in 2000, the home went on sale in June with a price tag of $5.2 million, according to Zillow.
The 20-acre property, less than 800 feet east of the intersection of Menge and Dunham roads, is now zoned as an agricultural district. But property owners hope to change the zoning to an E-5 Estate District to apply for a special use permit, allowing them to offer detoxification treatment and other rehabilitation services to paying clients dealing with substance abuse.
The facility would be operated by Footprints to Recovery, a company formerly branded as Brooktree Health Services that owns and operates four similar programs in Arlington Heights, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Arizona, according to county documents.
Officials from Dunham Property Holdings and Footprints could not be reached for comment Friday – but a letter addressed to McHenry County Zoning coordinator Kim Scharlow from attorney Nicholas Ftikas of the Law Offices of Sam Banks offers details on how the facility would operate.
The inpatient facility’s total bed count would not exceed 30 beds, and services would focus on detoxification treatment and individual treatments for people suffering from substance abuse.
The program would consist of an initial detoxification treatment ranging from three to seven days, during which patients would be medicated to manage withdrawal symptoms. After the detox, clients would enter residential therapy ranging from 21 to 27 days. The therapy would provide both individual and group counseling to prepare the client for a return to the community.
“It will be a private program accepting only private health insurance and self-pay clients,” Ftikas wrote in the 2016 letter. “No state or government insurances or payments will be accepted.”
The company plans to employ these staff members: executive director, clinical director, licensed physician, two registered nurses a shift, utilization review specialist, office manager, reception/clerical staff members, janitorial service providers and two behavioral health technicians a shift.
Before property owners can do anything with the site, the county’s zoning board must grant its request for a zoning change.
“The zoning board will be reviewing that request and accepting comments from the public,” said Dennis Sandquist, McHenry County’s director of planning & development.
County planning and zoning officials submitted a staff assessment of the request, offering a list of potential concerns.
The request “comes with concerns of traffic from visitors and staff, noise from the residents and ambulatory services, and contamination from pharmaceutical use into the groundwater,” the assessment said.
“This would be putting the rehab business in an area where it doesn’t belong,” Hartland Township Supervisor Charles Kruse said. “It’s a business. That’s what it is. They’ll generate revenue with this.”
County officials attended a regular meeting Thursday night in Hartland Township and heard similar concerns from trustees and residents about having an drug rehab facility open in rural Woodstock.
“The only thing I can see is a detriment to the community,” Kruse said.
Footprints is a for-profit company that charges patients to use its facilities.
About 30 Hartland Township and Woodstock residents have stepped forward in opposition of the facility, Kruse said. Residents are concerned about security in the case of a patient in recovery who “wanders off the property,” Kruse said.
Another concern centered on the potential for groundwater contamination from patients detoxing from prescription drugs.
Asked whether the property has a chance of winning approval from county zoning officials, Kruse was brief: “I hope not.”
McHenry County mental health advocates contend it’s common for communities to push back against addiction treatment facilities.
“It is not uncommon for communities to be reluctant to accept these facilities into the community,” McHenry County Mental Health Board Executive Director Scott Block said. “Once they establish, the fear and anxiety appear to dissipate.”