MICHIGAN CITY | Some Michigan City area residents have lost their bid to keep a mental health treatment facility out of their neighborhood.
Among the fears from residents is that mentally ill patients might pose a safety risk, but attempts were made to squelch those concerns.
"People who are mentally ill are no more of a danger to something than any of us. We're talking people who are simply in need of help here," said Dr. Matt Burden, CEO and executive director of Swanson Center.
The LaPorte County Board of Zoning Appeals on Tuesday approved a request for a variance allowing the Swanson Center to purchase a 20,000-square-foot, single-story building on a 12-acre site on LaPorte County Road 400 North just west of Johnson Road.
The structure, built in 1980, was originally home to Landmark Christian Church.
It later became the alternative high school for Michigan City and in more recent years was The Spoken Word Christian Church.
Swanson Center plans to relocate its outpatient mental health treatment facility and administrative offices from the Office Tower at Marquette Mall where it presently occupies a similar amount of space on the fourth, fifth and sixth floors.
Burden said among the reasons for the move is no longer having to pay rent where Swanson Center has been for over 30 years and to consolidate all of the offices to one level, allowing for easier and more effective delivery of services.
Kimberly Woodrick was among several residents who expressed concern that clients, including those convicted of crimes, could threaten the safety of people in the neighborhood.
"I don't care for that as my next door neighbor," said Woodrick, who lives beside the property.
"It really effects the character of the neighborhood and our acceptance of what we have to live with," said Alan Kolodiej.
Supporters of the move said mental health treatment is a compatible use for that area because medical facilities and other developments have gone up in the once-rural neighborhood in recent years.
The variance was granted with stipulations that included any future building expansion must come before the BZA for approval.