Drug court sober house plan stalls on location issue

Proposed site was on wrong side of street, outside boundaries for county buildings

SYCAMORE – DeKalb County Board members say they were against having a sober house because it didn’t fit with the county’s 100-year plan.

Turns out, it was on the wrong side of the intersection of Exchange and Walnut streets in Sycamore.

A proposal to buy the 2,388-square-foot house at 303 Exchange St. to house men being treated through DeKalb County’s DUI and drug court in Sycamore has officially been turned down. County board members say they didn’t want to go against the county’s 100-year plan, which sets boundaries for where the county has promised to house its government buildings.

“Technically, a promise is a promise, and I wouldn’t violate [residents’] trust,” said Stephen Reid, a Democrat from District 5.

In its 100-year plan, which was approved in 2001, the county said it would contain county property to the area bordered by North Walnut Street to the east, North Locust Street to the west, East Sycamore Street to the north and East State Street to the south.

The Exchange Street house is at the northeast corner of the intersection with Walnut, putting it just on the wrong side of the boundary.

Judge Robbin Stuckert, who oversees the drug court program, was not available for comment. Board members have said it is up to drug court officials to come up with a new proposed location.

“We do need a sober house,” said Jeff Whelan, a Republican from District 10. “I am for it, but the location was changed because it wouldn’t have been advantageous what they needed it for.”

Anthony Cvek, a Republican from District 4, is the board member closest to the topic. The proposed sober house location along Exchange Street would have been three doors down from his house, he said.

Cvek echoed other board members’ thoughts that the location would have gone against the county’s 100-year plan.

“I wasn’t against it being close to my house,” he said.

The Exchange Street location also was not a good fit because participants living there would have likely needed a method of transportation to get there since many of them don’t have cars themselves, said Anita Turner, a District 4 Democrat.

The property is about three-tenths of a mile from the county courthouse on State Street.

Turner said board members will wait and see what other opportunities arise.

“If another property comes up, we’ll consider it,” she said. “Hopefully it goes to the right channels.”

Sycamore city manager Brian Gregory said if the sober house is located within the city limits, they’d have to go through many steps to get the sober house on Sycamore city property.

In the city of Sycamore’s jurisdiction a sober house would have to be approved on a special use, case-by-case basis and must be located in multi-family home zones in Sycamore. But even then, Gregory said someone has to request a special use permit and make a petition for a location, tell neighbors within 500 feet of the area, meet with the plan commission for a public hearing, and then Sycamore City Council would hear and ultimately consider the request.

“It would have to go through the process,” Gregory said.

Frank O’Barski, D-DeKalb, said the county’s planning and zoning committee has not yet discussed another location, but whatever is proposed in the future, it should make community members feel secure and protected.

“Everybody agrees it’s a great program,” O’Barski said. “We support it, but there are multiple considerations to relocate.”