New Directions Addiction Recovery Services to open third Crystal Lake house

Walkup Woods residents angry, surprised by proposal for group home

Nunda Township officials try Thursday to answer questions from upset residents who surprised by a local addiction recovery group's desire to open a group home in Walkup Woods.
Nunda Township officials try Thursday to answer questions from upset residents who surprised by a local addiction recovery group's desire to open a group home in Walkup Woods.

CRYSTAL LAKE – More than 50 people showed up to Nunda Township’s latest monthly meeting.

But they weren’t there to talk about anything on the agenda.

They were there to express the shock, frustration and disappointment they felt since they heard New Directions Addiction Recovery Services bought a house in the unincorporated Walkup Woods neighborhood with plans to have a 10- to 12-person group home there.

Residents at the meeting Thursday night criticized New Directions Addiction Recovery Services president Chris Reed for not meeting with them to let them know what’s being planned.

Walkup Woods resident Mike Sarkady said New Directions should have exhibited “courtesy and kindness” by contacting people in the neighborhood to let them know of the plan, “for the group camaraderie and common good that is espoused by many sober-living communities.”

“I can’t stand this, 29 years of being a good citizen and my retirement is – some organization wants to come in and say, ‘We’re do-gooders. We’re gonna dump our crap in your backyard.’ Literally,” Sarkady said.

But what Reed is proposing, a sober-living group home, is legal under McHenry County residential code. He’s not required to notify neighbors, but would be happy to meet with them.

“It is a sober-living environment,” Reed said. “People living at our houses are held accountable to maintaining sobriety. If that is not maintained, they are not able to live there.”

Township officials and McHenry County Board member Joe Gottemoller, R-Crystal Lake, answered questions from angry residents and admitted there’s not much the township or residents can do about it under county law. Reed and New Directions do not need to seek any special use or conditional permits.

A resident who happened to speak with Reed shared Reed’s phone number at the meeting. Those in attendance could be seen jotting it down, eager to talk with Reed.

But Reed said Friday that he did not receive a call from anybody yet, although he’d be glad to meet with residents to address some of their concerns. There was talk at the meeting of trying to schedule a town hall regarding the proposal sometime this month.

“I’d love to,” Reed said. “I’d be happy to address reasonable and justified concerns.”

Reed plans to open the house, located at 4612 Tile Line Road, to recovering addicts within a couple of months. He specified it is not a halfway house, and people will not be court-ordered to go there.

Drug overdose deaths in McHenry County have increased in each of the past six years, according to the McHenry County Coroner’s Office. Fifty-six people overdosed and died in the county in 2016, and about 60 died of opioid overdoses in the county in 2017.

Reed said there is a need for sober-living environments in the area

“It is not going away,” he said, adding it’s not yet decided whether the third home will be for women or men.

New Directions closed on the house Dec. 28. The home needs some work, Reed said. It needs new appliances, new carpet, new paint and a refinishing of the hardwood floors.

“Our goal is to make the residences aesthetically pleasing and bring them up to par,” Reed said, noting the importance of having a nice place for recovering addicts to call home. “People staying at our homes have a right to come home, to a home, just like anyone else does.” 

Reed opened a men’s sober living home in October 2016 and owns The Other Side, a Crystal Lake sober bar established in 2013.

A five-person women’s home at 171 Lincoln Parkway originally was meant to house 12 people but saw backlash from neighbors during a public hearing in March 2016 to rezone the property. New Directions was requesting to rezone as a two-family residential home and receive a special use permit for a group dwelling. The home is now ready to occupy.

Those roadblocks don’t seem to exist with the third home.

Residents plan to attend a Jan. 24 meeting of the McHenry County Zoning Board of Appeals to voice their displeasure.

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