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Our View: Sober house plan deserved better

Published: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 10:57 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 11:22 p.m. CDT

A plan to buy a home at 303 E. Exchange St. in Sycamore for use as a sober-living house deserved better debate than it received from the DeKalb County Board.

The proposal was to purchase the 2,388-square-foot house, which is divided into two apartments, for $146,000. It would have been a monitored residence for no more than eight people suffering from substance abuse issues, blocks away from the county courthouse in Sycamore.

Residents would be male participants in the county’s drug court program, who have lacked a local home that will welcome them since the county established the program in 2006. About a third of the participants have to stay in locations outside the area and still find a way back to Sycamore to meet the program requirements.

The proposal was pushed aside however, not based on its merits, but because it did not jibe with the DeKalb County’s 100-year plan for growth at its Sycamore campus.

The document, available online at the county’s website, shows that the plans for 100-year growth call for no county buildings to be east of Walnut Street. And the house drug court officials proposed to buy was on the northeast corner of Exchange and Walnut streets.

The building is on the wrong side of the street, so the plan is no good, county officials said.

That spares them from having to have what could be a messy debate about whether the home would be safe to operate in a neighborhood – a neighborhood where one County Board member, Anthony Cvek, happens to live. (Cvek has said he had no issue with the house being so close to his own; it just didn’t fit with the plan.)

To operate the facility, the county would also have required a special use permit from the Sycamore City Council.

But should the 100-year plan apply here? This would not be a county building like the county jail or courthouse or highway department buildings. It would be a place where people would live, under supervision from drug court officials. Residences are usually located in neighborhoods.

Was a county sober-living facility envisioned by the people who drafted the growth plan in 2001? Considering the drug court program did not exist at the time, probably not.

Maybe the proposal to have drug court participants live in the house would have worked, and maybe it would not have. It is only natural that neighbors would have concerns – neighbors anywhere will have concerns.

Drug court officials had little opportunity to address those concerns, however. Instead, the proposal was killed.

As they shelved this proposal, some County Board members said they want the county to have a sober-living facility for its male drug court participants, only, not there.

Time will tell if they are sincere in that or not.

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