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Proposed location for sober living facility in Bonnyville turned down

Town of Bonnyville council votes against proposed 4003 41st St. location
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BONNYVILLE – A sober living home is looking for a new place to set up in the Town of Bonnyville after its first location was denied by council.

Town council voted against an application from the company, Residents in Recovery, to open a facility at 4003 41st St. after several residents in the area opposed it. However, council encouraged the group to look for a spot in town that might be a better fit. 

After sending out a notice to adjacent property owners, town administration received over 20 responses against the possibility of a sober living group home being opened in the neighbourhood.

Coun. Ray Prevost said, “I don’t think anyone would disagree with the fact that this is essential in many communities, but in my 24 years on council I’ve never seen 27 or 28 letters opposing a development… It speaks volumes for the people that were here speaking on behalf of their resident area in town.”

Residents in Recovery is based in Lloydminster. They operate four sober living facilities with a total capacity of 25 individuals, one home for women and three for men. There’s a 31 per cent relapse rate in the 67 different pre-treatment sober living clients, while the 23 post-treatment sober living clients had a relapse rate of 17 per cent.

There’s also a recovery centre available that has supported over 300 individuals and has a total of 125 daily programming participants.

The early abstinence sober living program offers a "safe, recovery-focused environment for individuals starting their recovery journey."

The continuum of care model follows an individual through their first year of recovery, from their starting point of detoxing, being released from the hospital or jail to community reintegration and family reunification along with employment or going to school.

During this time, participants in the program are given daily interactive programming information and modules that teach them basic life skills and give them information that could help down the road.

Residents in Recovery intends to operate two sober living houses in town that could house up to 10 people between them, one for women and the other for men.

The proximity of the proposed location to Bonnyville's Little Leap Park, and the fact the children live in the area, are among the reasons residents gave for being against the group home.

“As there are too many variables that impact the addiction and recovery process, it’s impossible to accurately predict how someone struggling with addiction will respond to abstinence and treatment,” Curtis Bordeleau wrote in a letter. “No two addictions are the same, therefore it’s also true that no two recoveries will be either.”

Helene Severyn said in her letter to the town that it would be “putting our young children and neighbourhood at risk.”

“I understand the need but the location of an addiction recovery house should never be in an area of any community where families with children live and so close to a park,” she exclaimed.

Due to Bonnyville’s size, Coun. Chad Colbourne noted it would be difficult to find an area where this wasn’t an issue.

“I’m hard-pressed to find an area around or within Bonnyville that doesn’t have a park or kids. I live in Beau Vista and I can tell you right now I probably have one or two drug houses in my neighbourhood. I can’t control it, but (Residents in Recovery) can control it.”

Director of planning and development Katherine Currie said the group home “would be more suited for a medium or high density (area) due to the more permanent nature of it versus a single-family (area).”

“I don’t know of any other communities that specifically say this type of proposal has to be in one district or another. A lot of them, as in Lloydminster, you probably wouldn’t even have seen this through the municipal planning commission. It would have been approved through the development officer,” she added.

Another issue raised by residents was the possibility of property values being impacted.

“It wouldn’t make sense for one property owner to gain financially from a business venture in a residents area when the surrounding residential neighbourhood would be drastically impacted by financial losses due to lower property values and the difficulty in trying to sell a home while located nearby a facility like what was being proposed,” expressed Luke Miko in a letter to the town.

According to administration, the development of a group home won’t decrease property value as the assessment regulations and land use bylaw don’t regulate ‘people use’ of property.

Other concerns raised by homeowners were safety, limited parking on the street, drug paraphernalia being left on the street, and drug dealers being attracted to the area. 

Robynne Henry, Bonnyville Nouvelle

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