January 30, 2023
Local News

Rural Woodstock rehab center hearing postponed

WOODSTOCK – The giant, $5.2 million home at 19802 Dunham Road northwest of Woodstock is the kind of abode reserved for millionaires and the movies.

The building boasts seven bedrooms, four kitchens and 20,000 square feet, including a finished basement. It has two elevators and a private pond.

Sitting on 19.3 acres of rural land, the posh pad once was the home of a successful couple who made their money in private education. Now owned by a group of investors, the property could be the future site of a substance abuse rehabilitation facility, but township residents and officials are concerned a rehab center – or any other commercial enterprise – wouldn't fit with the rural character of the area.

“This business doesn’t belong here,” Hartland Township Supervisor Charles Kruse said. “It creates a wedge in the community is what it does.”

McHenry County zoning officials had scheduled a Thursday afternoon hearing to allow the company behind the rehab plans, Dunham Property Holdings LLC, to pitch its request for a zoning change to legally open the recovery center in rural Woodstock. Before the meeting began, the company requested it be postponed until February.

Owners of Dunham Property Holdings did not answer inquiries about their plans for the property. Dennis Sandquist, McHenry County’s director of planning and development, also could not be reached for comment on why the company asked to delay the hearing.

The 20-acre property, less than 800 feet east of the intersection of Menge and Dunham roads, currently is zoned for agriculture. The property owners have requested that county officials change the zoning to an E-5 Estate District to apply for a special use permit.

That permit would allow Dunham Property Holdings to offer detoxification treatment and other rehab services to paying clients dealing with substance abuse.

The sprawling property – flush with a waterfall, pool, paved walking trails and a four-car garage – is the kind of dreamy abode Hartland Township Assessor Mike Crouse described as “over-improved.”

“This is a larger than average house,” Crouse said. “Picture a North Shore mansion. ... It’s got four kitchens ... kitchens that won’t fit in a three-car garage.”

The mansion’s origin story begins in 1997, when Lynn and Tony Tortorello bought the property.

The Tortorellos, a wealthy couple that owned a private trade school called Environmental Technical Institute, built the home in 2002. The couple lived there together until Tony died in 2009, leaving the house to Lynn.

On Aug. 5, 2015, Lynn sold the home for $4.9 million to Dunham Property Holdings. It was the highest purchase price for a home in McHenry County since 2012, when a Barrington Hills home sold for $7.5 million, according to Crain's.

The new owners have since shuffled the home on and off the market, Crouse said.

On Sept. 15, 2016, about a year after Dunham Property Holdings bought the house, the company listed the home for sale with a $4.9 million price tag. The group took the house off the market May 5, 2017 – and relisted it June 15 for $5.2 million, assessment records show.

As of Thursday afternoon, the estate remained on the market.

“I don’t think anybody has lived there in quite a while,” Kruse said.

News of the rehab proposal has worried Hartland Township residents. About 30 residents from both Hartland and Woodstock have stepped forward in opposition of the facility, Kruse said.

The Northwest Herald reached out to some residents, but many were reluctant to speak about the situation. McHenry County Board member Larry Smith, a Republican from District 6, which includes the property, also wished to save his comments until after the company meets with zoning officials.

“The neighbors are concerned,” Smith said, “and this is likely to be a controversial issue.”

Those neighbors are concerned about security in the event a patient in recovery wanders off the property, Kruse said. Another concern centered on the potential for groundwater contamination from patients detoxing from prescription drugs.

The facility would be operated by Footprints to Recovery, a company formerly branded as Brooktree Health Services that owns and operates four similar programs in Arlington Heights, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Arizona, according to county documents. County documents revealed that the owners of Footprints are the same investors that own Dunham Property Holdings.

Footprints is a for-profit company that charges patients to use its facilities.

Although officials from Dunham Property Holdings and Footprints were not available to talk about the details of their rehab plans, a letter addressed to McHenry County zoning coordinator Kim Scharlow from attorney Nicholas Ftikas of the Law Offices of Sam Banks sheds light on how the facility would operate.

The inpatient facility’s total bed count would not exceed 30, and services would focus on detox treatment and individualized treatments for recovering addicts.

The program would include an initial detox of three to seven days, after which clients would enter residential therapy for 21 to 27 days. The therapy would provide both individual and group counseling to prepare the client for a return to the community.

“It will be a private program accepting only private health insurance and self-pay clients,” Ftikas wrote in the 2016 letter. “No state or government insurances or payments will be accepted.”

The company plans to employ an executive director, clinical director, licensed physician, two registered nurses a shift, utilization review specialist, office manager, reception/clerical staff members, janitorial service providers and two behavioral health technicians a shift.

Before the property owners can do anything with the site, the county’s zoning board must grant its request for a zoning change, and the McHenry County Board must approve.

County planning and zoning officials submitted a list of potential concerns, including traffic, noise and groundwater contamination from pharmaceutical use, records show.

The McHenry County Zoning Board of Appeals is next set to meet with Dunham Property Holdings at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 8 in Conference Room C at the county Administration Building, 667 Ware Road, Woodstock.