KANKAKEE — After much debate and with a 7-0 approval from the Kankakee Planning Board, the Kankakee City Council approved an ordinance for a conditional use permit for a halfway house in the city’s Marycrest neighborhood.
Recording a 10-2 vote with one abstention at Monday’s City Council meeting in the Donald E. Green Public Safety Center, the council approved a one-year permit for Victory House at 375 N. St. Joseph Ave. in Kankakee.
Mike Hoffman, vice president of the Kankakee Planning Board, said a public hearing was held on April 20 with the applicant, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Joliet on behalf of the L’SOM Ministries, which operates the halfway house. Hoffman said there are a series of conditions that have to be met.
Those include that Victory House has or will obtain a state or local licensing or certification to operate the facility; that it will comply with all applicable laws, regulations and standards, including requirements by the Kankakee Fire Department for sprinklers and alarms; the capacity of the house is capped at eight residents; and there must be a house manager or an assistant on site when residents are present.
“And the conditional use must be renewed after a year, providing the right time to evaluate the impact on the surrounding neighborhood,” Hoffman said.
Alderman Michael Prude and Alderwoman Cherry Malone-Marshall voted against the ordinance, while Michael Cobbs abstained.
“I have spoken with several residents, and they have approached me,” Malone-Marshall said. “And they have been very vocal on the fact that they’ve lived there for many years and they’re in opposition to the halfway house in their neighborhood because it has no structure that they are aware of. And so for that reason I’m voting against it.”
At the June 9 council meeting several Marycrest residents spoke against the halfway house during public comment. The vote on the ordinance for the conditional use permit was tabled at that meeting.
Christine Williams, a Marycrest resident, spoke on Monday in opposition of the halfway house.
“There’s a lot of questions that we’ve had that have not been answered,” said Williams, who added she had a petition signed by 200 residents who are opposed to the halfway house.
“Most importantly, I would say, please consider that how would you feel if someone came into your neighborhood, in your area and stated that we’re going to have a home here, we’re going to place something here against your will?” Williams asked the council. “And you have a lot of people who don’t want it.”
Alderman Lance Marczak voted for the permit because it has the stipulation that it has to come up for renewal after one year.
“You know one year goes really quick,” Marczak said. “And if things go great, it’s not a problem. If there’s a problem, then the community will let us know. And we have the option to not renew that, so it’s a win-win. It’s all right. Don’t think that this is a decision that’s taken lightly because you’re going to do what’s best for the community. Obviously, there is a need. There’s a need for both for the house, and there’s also a need to listen to the residents.”
It was unclear how soon the Victory House will be in operation.