SOUTHPORT — In the ongoing faceoff between a prospective addiction recovery house and nearby residents, neighbors demanded guarantees, but Rosecrance could only offer compromises as it sought to move forward with its plan to build a recovery and counseling center at Ashland and Waveland avenues.
The plan is hotly contested by some neighbors, including the Lakeview Action Committee — which is now raising money to support its efforts — and 516 supporters of its petition to keep the center out of Lakeview.
In the second public meeting on Monday concerning the 3701 N. Ashland Ave. proposal, Rosecrance pledged to hold itself to a good neighbor agreement and to ask the Zoning Board of Appeals postpone its September hearing regarding the not-for-profit company's request for a special use permit.
Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said he had already used his allotted extension request to push back the original August hearing, but said the applicant had the same power.
On Monday, CEO Philip Eaton promised to delay the hearing to give the Southport Neighbors Association enough time to learn more about the proposal and take an advisory vote ahead of the ZBA hearing, which will likely be set now for Oct. 16, Tunney said.
Developments in Rosecrance's ongoing faceoff with neighbors
Other new details that emerged from the meeting:
• Eaton revealed that Rosecrance plans to move forward with the outpatient counseling center on the building's first floor, regardless of whether the special-use permit is granted. Current zoning allows for the center, but the permit is required for any transitional living residence in the city.
• Eaton said Rosecrance would agree to a plan of operations or "good neighbor agreement" as a condition of the special-use permit, allowing neighbors to hold the company to its promises — among them, to prevent loitering and excessive smoking on the building's roof.
• Clients in the young adult recovery residence would pay approximately $2,500 per month, which would not be covered by insurance or Medicaid, Eaton said. The statement confused some attendees of last week's meeting, during which Eaton said Rosecrance accepts insurance for some of its services.
Unlike the proposed recovery center, Rosecrance's residential inpatient treatment centers cost $711 per day and accept insurance. The inpatient centers are designed for intense addiction treatment during typical stays of 35 to 40 days. Such treatment is a precursor to acceptance into a recovery residence, where stays could last up to 18 months.
Ariel Cheung discusses why many neighbors object to the plan:
The alderman weighs in
What didn't change Monday was Tunney's decision to "let the chips fall" during the ZBA hearing, deferring to neighbors to make their voices heard rather than taking a position himself.
Tunney said since the board had final authority in granting or denying the special-use permit, there are times when it was best for aldermen to keep their opinions to themselves.
"I have my feelings about Rosecrance — I feel they do good work. But if the vast majority of people don't feel comfortable with even the plan of operation, we expect you to be there at the zoning board's public hearing. My decision goes with the majority of residents," Tunney said.
During two hours of questions, neighbors grew restless with what some said they felt was a lack of answers from Rosecrance. Key issues were public safety, cigarette smoke from the center's rooftop patio wafting into people's homes, clients loitering around the block and a lack of parking for staff, visiting family and about 20 outpatient treatment participants cycling through the first-floor center.
Neighbors were also upset to learn that, as a not-for-profit organization, Rosecrance would not pay taxes.
Demands for specific details on how Rosecrance would prevent the quality-of-life issues went largely unanswered, residents complained. Neighbors asked the company to gather comparable crime, property value and operating procedure information from similar Chicago-based programs, as the Lakeview location would be Rosecrance's first recovery home in an urban setting.
Eaton said while smoking was "a real issue, it's not illegal," and offered to increase the smoking cessation activities that he admitted were not "terribly effective." Rosecrance officials pledge to limit the number of clients allowed to smoke outside together.
Maintaining an open dialog with neighbors
Rosecrance said it planned to form a community advisory committee that could potentially draft the plan of operations, both measures were geared at appeasing neighbors.
But the neighbors said they would hold the business to a high standard. They scoffed at promises that a third-party security guard would be able to maintain order overnight after other staff left. One person also demanded a 99 percent crime-free and mentally healthy clientele, which Rosecrance said it could not guarantee, although it previously said no one with mental illness or a violent criminal record would be admitted to the recovery residence.
"If one of my neighbors is mugged by one of your residents, I want you gone. If you can't control the loitering, I want the permit revoked and you gone. No one would care if we never notice you're there — what we want to know is if you are lying, and it happens, if you can't do what you say you're going to do, then you leave," said Tom Ostrom.
Case studies in the neighborhood
Tunney pointed to the Broadway Youth Center's 2013 move as an example of neighbors getting a commitment from an organization to follow their plan of operation or risk losing their permit.
"We've done this before. It's been almost two years, maybe more, and [South East Lake View Neighbors] don't feel there has been an uptick in crime," from the center, Tunney said. Like Rosecrance, the Broadway Youth Center faced severe opposition, but "those fears have been basically not sustained," Tunney said.
The center's good neighbor agreement is not specifically tied to its special-use permit, but rather is a written agreement between Tunney, neighbors and its affiliate, the Howard Brown Health Center. A violation could impact the permit's renewal, officials said at the time.
The ZBA considers five factors before approving a special-use application: compliance with the zoning ordinance, public convenience and lack of "significant adverse impact," design compatibility, operation compatibility and promotion of pedestrian safety and comfort.
If the project would have potential adverse impacts on surrounding properties, the board can place conditions on the approval to mitigate the impact.
What comes next
The Southport Neighbors Association is set to meet Oct. 19, three days after Tunney said the ZBA hearing would likely take place. However, a special meeting could be arranged so neighbors have a chance to vote on the measure ahead of the hearing.
The vote is an advisory measure to inform Tunney about the neighborhood's collective sway on an issue.
No additional meetings to discuss the proposal have been announced, although it is possible Tunney, Rosecrance or another interested party could set a meeting in the coming months.
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