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Group Home Proposal Passes Wheaton Commission

Wheaton Group Care Home Commission votes to approve plan for STARS home in Wheaton.

Wheaton's Group Care Home Commission last week voted to grant STARS Family Services the necessary license to build a for developmentally disabled adults at the corner of Cross Street and Union Avenue in Wheaton, the Chicago Tribune reported.

STARS is proposing to build two single-family homes with a common courtyard. The homes would be completed in stages, with the second home constructed as funding allows. Each home would have an attached two-car garage with a shared driveway off of Union Avenue. Guest, volunteer and staff parking will be on the shared driveway.

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STARS provides small supportive living arrangements and related services to developmentally disabled adults of the STARS Disability Ministry of in Wheaton, according to a Wheaton city staff memo.

Since opening its first house in north Wheaton last June, the organization has received applications from more than 20 adults who live with their aging parents, who, β€œare finding it increasingly difficult to care for their adult children,” according to a city memo.

"It's a house, not an institution," attorney David Bay, who represents STARS, told the city's Planning and Zoning board at a June meeting. "It will blend well with the neighborhood. You wouldn't know it's anything other than an ordinary house."

Neighbors of the proposed development expressed concern and criticism of the project's scale, according to the Tribune.

Reader Kathy Langlois responded to . Langlois was also quoted in the Tribune after the Group Care Home Commission meeting on Sept. 6. Here is what she said:

The creative license taken by the zoning board to reinterpret the zoning laws is appalling. This plan is for 9,000 square feet of structure on a single lot and violates the rule that no group homes will be located within in 500 feet of one another. They've chosen to call these two 4500 square foot homes as "structures" rather than what they are--two homes for group living on a single residential lot. The STARS mission is a noble one--and they have a 1-year track record with a single home for four adults. Housing more than a dozen disabled adults together has not been proven and is not in keeping with the residential neighborhood in which this experiment will be allowed. I'm disappointed with the zoning board's rude dismissal of neighbor objections. STARS--we support you and your mission. However, we feel strongly that you should reconsider and build a single family structure and continue to build your track record with four adults in single houses within residential neighborhoods. This is too much.

Wheaton's Planning and Zoning board voted unanimously in June that City Council approve the project. The project approval will likely go before City Council sometime in October, according to the Tribune.

kerry mansour September 14, 2012 at 02:31 PM
If you live in Wheaton, you should care about this issue because a precedent is being set for all group care homes in our community. There will be more, because they are a greatly needed alternative for the many populations of community members with any variety of special needs. But I believe they still need to follow the established zoning ordinances--isn't that WHY we have zoning ordinances? We live in an R-4 zone, which specifically states: "Group Care Homes...not located within 500 feet of another Group Care Home." But the City Staff Planner stated, "Our interpretation is that it is one. It's one group care home. It's one group care license." And the zoning board didn't even question this, despite the fact that they were staring at a rendering of the proposed Group Care HOME and it's clearly TWO HOUSES. Incidentally, the zoning regualtions also have regulations on the allowable lot size in our zone, and this organization is referring to their proposal of two houses as a single-family dwelling. We contend that one group care home would absolutely qualify as a single-family dwelling, but by building two houses on your lot, you are no longer building a "single-family home," and you need a larger lot. But again, this issue was not even questioned or brought up for debate at the planning and zoning board meeting. So, what might you see in the future, on your corner? If 2 houses can be called one, how about 3, 4, or 5 houses? All on one lot--one "Group Care Home."
Yvonne Rusin September 28, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Please!!! Build some of these homes in my neighborhood! These are homes for adults with disabilities - not criminal or drug rehab group homes. Not every group home is alike - and the decision to approve building is not always so black and white. That's why there is a zoning board - so they can use discretion on behalf of all of us! This is a wonderful opportunity to volunteer and get involved! "A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members." ~ Mahatma Ghandi "...the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped. " ~ Last Speech of Hubert H. Humphrey Our society must make it right and possible for old people not to fear the young or be deserted by them, for the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members.~Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973), My Several Worlds [1954].
Kathy Langlois November 08, 2012 at 10:54 PM
Dear Ms. Rusin, please be so kind as to not question our humanity or Christianity. We are absolutely without question in support of a STARS home in our neighborhood. To subjectively interpret or disregard the zoning laws for THIS group home means that the same liberties should be given to homes for ex-criminals, rehabilitated drug addicts, troubled teens, etc. Not every group home is filled with the lovely members of the STARS organization. This sets a precedent and there are PLENTY of available single family homes throughout Wheaton in which we can welcome the clients of STARS.
Yvonne Rusin November 15, 2012 at 08:17 PM
Ms. Langlois, As I said "these are homes for adults with disabilities - not criminal or drug rehab group homes. Not every group home is alike - and the decision to approve building is not always so black and white. That's why there is a zoning board - so they can use discretion on behalf of all of us!" I don't believe that a group of adults with disabilities can be compared to the groups you are concerned about - and I'm sure the zoning board would not consider these groups the same either. I did not question your humanity or Christianity (any more than I welcomed drug rehab or ex-criminal homes in my neighborhood). I am happy to hear that you welcome STARS in your neighborhood - and the quotes I printed may also be quotes you hold dear.
Kathy Langlois November 15, 2012 at 11:04 PM
Thank you for that response. However, I am NOT comparing STARS residents or their group homes to those other types of groups. What I'm concerned about is two-fold: 1.) What happens if STARS is no longer able to fund these homes? It is an ambitious undertaking. If they are not built as free-standing single homes without shared spaces, they likely will always be used by some sort of group home organization. Who might my next group home neighbors be? and 2.) allowing this sets a precedent for all group homes in Wheaton. The city could face serious lawsuits if they don't afford the same rights to all group homes--THAT is why we have zoning ordinances and that is why I'm very concerned with the liberties taken for this organization. Finally, and just as important, I also think small groups living as a family interact with their community differently than a large group that becomes its own insulated community. I WANT these community members to feel like just another family in my neighborhood.
Yvonne Rusin November 16, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Given the need for group homes for adults with disabilities, I don't see these homes becoming abandoned. There will always be organizations within the community of people who are caring for adults with disabilities who can step in. These adults are in a protected class - because they have disabilities. I don't think ex-criminals or those with drug rehab needs are protected classes of citizens. However, you are correct, there is nothing to prevent them from putting Wheaton through a lawsuit in the future. I think the quote from Councilwoman Evelyn Pacino Sanguinetti sums up how most of us feel. “I do believe that the benefit that this initiative provides to all of us far outweighs the concerns of these neighbors,” Pacino Sanguinetti said. Additionally, there is a different dynamic in downtown communities VS subdivision communities to be sure. The inconvenient truth is that a downtown setting is exactly what helps this community of adults with disabilities become part of the community - because they have easy access. They will no doubt be watched over very carefully. However, I don't think they will be insulated - that would not be the goal. The plan to divide the group-care home into two structures was actually designed at the urging of the city per Councilwoman Jeanne Ives. I'm not sure if that was due to flood zone concerns - or why - but if one large group-care home had been proposed to unite these two structures, there would be no zoning issues to discuss.

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