Planned Group Home in Nunda Township Irks Neighbors

Draft UDO Hinders New Directions Addiction Recover Services Third Local Group Home

Neighbors from Walkup Woods flooded Nunda Township to express concerns for development of a 10 to 12 person group home.

Location of planned group home.

Plans for New Directions to open an addiction rehabilitation home have stalled due to presented changes to the Unified Development Ordinance.

A copy of the draft UDO can be found here.

The current UDO defines “group home” as a residence licensed for specialized home care that functions as a single unit for the housing of unrelated persons with functional disabilities. Group home includes both senior living and recovery living.

The new UDO would split those two into different definitions.

A “group home” would only be for those who receive treatment, rehabilitation or specialized care for mental or physical impairments. It specifies a group home does not accept placement of individuals whose primary disability is recovery from addiction.

Sober living home is a proposed definition included in the draft UDO. A sober living home would be occupied by persons in recovery for drug and/or alcohol addiction. A “sober living home” does not accept placement of individuals as an alternative to incarceration or as a condition of release from incarceration—that is a “halfway house.”

UDO draft cover

Another road block to New Direction’s strategy is the limit to the number of occupants in a group home or sober living home from 12 to 8.

Under the draft UDO only facilities with 6 or more residents, including live-in care providers, will have to be accredited with the Commission for the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, the Joint Commission, or another agency approved by a Zoning Enforcement Officer.


Planned Group Home in Nunda Township Irks Neighbors — 12 Comments

  1. The problem here is that the Federal Fair Housing Act may limit what the county, or any other unit of local government, may do in terms of regulation. That is why the UDO changes don’t attempt to do more than is proposed. Even so, issues could arise.

    This whole thing was done by the Mental Health Board in dead of night with no public input or even notification to local residents.

    Paula Yensen, currently the lone Democrat on the County Board other than the Chairman, is the County Board voting liaison to the Mental Health Board and did nothing to notify other Board Members, including those representing District 3, of the proposed action either before or after it was taken.

    Former County Board chairman and development attorney Joe Gottemoller is the GOP Precinct Committeeman for that precinct and I don’t think even he was given a heads up.

    Moreover, any UDO changes, whether lawful in light of Federal Regulations or not, cannot affect this particular home after the fact.

  2. Having grown up 1 mile from the Walkup Woods subdivision- Walkup Woods residents complaining about “drug addicts” is pretty damned funny.

  3. Everyone wants increased drug treatment in the county. No one wants it in their backyard. Same old story.

  4. There is no doubt there is a drug problem in this county and organizations like New Directions are doing their best to help get addicts back on their feet. The issue above is not about changing zoning laws to restrict business from helping the addicts but to help protect these organizations, the county, and most importantly the people seeking help. The FHA/ADA rightfully protects people from discrimination but does it so broadly it leaves little to protect people who enter these facilities from bad operators.

    There is no oversight at all and anyone and i mean anyone can open a Sober Living Home and operate they way they please and there have been hundreds of thes ebad homes across the country who still are operation and taking advantage of them. The Zoning board rightfully made these changes so they can have some knowledge of who is opening a group home. Currently a sober living home could open without a municipality knowing and cram 12 or more people into whatever size house they want with no operational rules to follow. Because of laxed zoning laws like this there have been many overdose deaths at Sober Living homes. Having some laws in place allows groups like New Directions a better chance of success and less chance of bad operators from insurance fraud and resident abuse.

    Remember not all 4 bedroom houses are the same size some can be 1400 square feet and others 3,000 square feet. Having resident restrictions helps them have a better chance of success. If you take the time to read UDO you will see the old wording and the new wording and should see how this is needed. If you search sober living in Prescott AZ or Costa Mesa CA , Southern Florida, sober living home overdose you will see why having common sense laws are needed. Lastly at the Zoning meeting it was mentioned by the Chairman that they were working on amending the zoning laws for two years not just sober living homes. I ask everyone to do their research on the above and read the FHA and ADA i believe you will have more support for this new UDO and a better understanding of addiction and the need to help these people.

  5. Does anyone have any clue how many group homes there are in the county or how many different groups there are that run them? I can name some. Pioneer, Bethesda, Rosecrance and Alexian is what I know of let alone how many are really out there. These people need a place to go and they don’t cause any problems out side the home. There are seldom problems. I sometimes have problems with my current neighbors. Maybe we should close all these homes down and have more homeless in the county. Yeah. That’s a good idea. I’ve been to a few of these places and had no clue they were even there.
    But I got it – just not in my neighborhood! Ignorance is bliss.

  6. This is also not the best location as it is not within walking distance of downtown Crystal Lake. It would have made more sense to do this in a less completely residential setting such as the house that is already operating on South Walkup right next to the Park District offices. People there can easily walk into town and it is on the edge of a mixed use environment.

    There is an entire residence hotel operating on Virgina Street, for example, which would make an ideal location for this type of use. Make those owners a good enough offer and a deal could probably be done.

    The problem here is the total lack of the usual notice and hearing requirements that go with other zoning petitions.

    The last time there was a zoning issue in this general neighborhood was when one house owner decided to open a weekend vacation rental which turned into a party house. That also wasn’t regulated at the time but when they went for B & B status there was a hearing.

    The immediate neighbor was so upset at the all night party atmosphere that had obtained that he had a heart attach right after he testified and had to be taken out unconscious and seemingly dead. Fortunately he survived, but this just goes to show how high emotions can get over these types of things.

    Since this time citizens have been showing up at the wrong venues to air their grievances. Neither the County nor the Township can do anything about this after the fact and the Township has no zoning authority anyway. They should be besieging the MHB.

  7. If the NIMBYs were so concerned, maybe someone should have purchased the house themselves, or found someone interested in it first.

  8. If anyone had seen this coming, AZ, they maybe could have done that but there was no notice of any kind and the vote would have been taken in secret closed session with no notification in the agenda of the Mental Health Board.

  9. $210,000 of Mental Health Board (MHB) tax dollars was awarded to New Directions for the purchase of a house to be used for sober living in public at the MHB October 24, 2017 meeting. Paula Yensen, along with 2 other MHB members (Raymond Lapinas and Lynn Kasicki) voted against this allocation. My understanding is that these three individuals voted against the house purchase for two key reasons: one, spending tax dollars on a house versus spending on treatment and services, and two, because there were insufficient requirements governing sober house group homes. As County Board liaison to the Mental Health Board, Paula Yensen is one of the Board’s best liaisons who keeps the County Board informed of the MHB activities and has reached out to the neighbors in question. The problem with this situation was that the MHB allocation for $210K occurred in October, but a house was not purchased until late December / January and occurred in unincorporated Crystal Lake. Unincorporated areas lack the oversight and controls for group homes that the City of Crystal Lake has exercised. At this time the County UDO is being revised to provide more governance for sober homes that will have similarities to the CL ordinances. These changes will be is a win-win for the neighbors, as well as the residents of the sober homes in unincorporated areas throughout County. If you want to provide input to the Mental Health Board you can attend their meeting (as I did last month to voice my concerns). Their next meeting is on February 27 from 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM at 620 Dakota Street, Crystal Lake, Illinois 60012. You can also write them at the above address, or send an email to
    In addition, you can contact board members directly. The MHB website and board membership is as follows:

    Email me at if you want to discuss any of these issues with me. Respectfully, County Board Member Donna Kurtz

  10. Within 48 hours of the Nunda Meeting the community found out that a foreclosed home in the area was purchased with $210k tax payer dollars granted by McHenry Health Board for the intent to put 12+ people in the house as a recovery home. The house is a lemon. It sat foreclosed for 3 years sold ‘As-Is’ for cash due to mold, structure and septic issues. The banks wouldn’t mortgage the house. Several offers were turned down.

    One may become irked when you start searching ‘sober living group home’ or ‘recovery home’, there are 2 items that come out loud and clear. 1. Unregulated sober living homes are overcrowded and the people in the homes can be exploited. 2. Owners are protected by FHA and are getting wealthy, while the people inside are relapsing or dying.

    As a community we asked Nunda about zoning… thankfully they brought in Joe Gottemoller to answer our questions and directed us to review the UDO and to provide public comment at the next MCC Board Meeting. In addition, we reviewed surrounding counties and cities zoning… we found McHenry County’s UDO on Group Home is extremely unregulated.

    The current UDO doesn’t have a cap on # of people in a group home. And there is no permitting required. Thus McHenry County can’t provide any analytics on # of group homes and as of today and someone could cram 20 people in a house and it’s not a violation.

    We applaud the Planning & Development group on reaching out to Prescott, AZ and reviewing local counties and aligning the proposed UDO amendment with Federal & State law, International Building Codes as well as surrounding counties on Group and Sober Living/Recovery Homes. The vetted their proposal with States Attorney’s office. This change to group/sober living homes will not only protect the people within the home trying to recover, it will also protect the community.

    With 1 death a week in MCC due to OD, we all want to see New Directions succeed. Why would we want to see him fail with our tax dollars?

    However, I question buying a lemon house that needs A LOT of work, I question the location as they should be closer to public transportation, jobs and free services. Unincorporated areas pay more for utilities such as waste and water than the city and services such as the library are not free. The infrastructure is made for single families, including community well and 40 yr old septic. Overall, I have a hard time seeing the fit other than they got a cheap house that has a nice amount of sq. foot. The Not-for-Profit actually bid up to win the house with our tax $$. Listed at $210, bought at $214.

    When McHenry Health Board is giving out large sums of money, they should have a say on our behalf as tax payers on how the money was spent, at least see the house before putting in an offer. Did not happen.

    At this point how do we help New Directions succeed? Ensuring the people inside are protected through zoning and ensuring staff is licensed/trained. Note, these videos represent states across the country. This is not a new story. Just new to McHenry County. The first video link seems to be quite applicable; and provides a solution. Living in a formerly closed down hotel with medically trained folks on-staff to help and keeping costs minimal. win-win.

    We encourage the MCC Board to approve this UDO change. As it will set a precedence for all group sober living/recovery homes within unincorporated areas not just Nunda township.

    Please note we are in support of Donna and Paula, we appreciated your vote mentioned above.

  11. I’ll agree to it if Llavonda can be housed and watched there.

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