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Council defeats second reading of bylaw for transitional housing rezoning

After two hours of speakers, most speaking against the proposed bylaw that would see a property located at 5130-45 Avenue rezoned from residential to Institutional, Town of St. Paul council defeated second reading of the bylaw, halting the rezoning.  
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ST. PAUL - While most people who spoke during a public hearing held on Feb. 12 voiced support for a transitional housing project in St. Paul, they did not voice support for the chosen location of a proposed project. 

After two hours of speakers, most speaking against the proposed bylaw that would see a property located at 5130-45 Avenue rezoned from residential to Institutional, Town of St. Paul council defeated second reading of the bylaw, halting the rezoning.  

The property had been chosen as the site for a transitional housing project that is being spearheaded by the Mannawanis Native Friendship Centre. The project proposes a 12-bed facility where clients would be deemed low risk and would be leaving treatment facilities. Programs would not be run from the residence, but would be offered at the Mannawanis Native Friendship Centre. 

Opening the meeting, Mayor Maureen Miller noted that while several responses were received in favour and against the proposed rezoning, any anonymous responses would not be considered, as per policy. Late submissions were also not accepted.  

Speaking in opposition to the rezoning was Darryl Poirier, a local real estate agent and owner of a couple of properties in the area near the residence. 

He expressed concern about a lack of communication with those involved in the project, stating he still has not heard back from the organization. He also noted that he felt the project would disrupt the neighbourhood and could result in a decrease in the property value of the homes in the area. 

“I can tell you, it’s going to hurt that area,” said Poirier. 

Area resident Monique Jaman also spoke out against the rezoning. She noted that while she was not sure how many staff would be on site, there would likely be an increase in traffic in the area, if the project moved forward. 

She expressed other concerns about the placement of the transitional housing project in the neighbourhood, but agreed that transitional housing is important to support people who are on their recovery journey. 

Another area resident, Nathan Rosychuk, spoke out against the location, and questioned if a project like this was right for the community. He said he believed emergency responders were already overwhelmed, and if a transitional housing project brought people from outside the community, it could create more issues.  

He acknowledged that he would have liked to have more conversations with the Friendship Centre because he believes their heart is in the right place. 

Area resident Jason Kalynchuk went around the neighbourhood with a petition against the rezoning, which he handed to council during the public hearing. He said the situation has caused stress and anxiety in the community. 

He noted the neighbourhood includes several young families where children often play outdoors. 

“We are safe and our children are safe,” said Kalynchuk. He noted that one positive of the process is that he has met even more of his neighbours, as they have come together for a common cause. 

Following the list of people speaking in opposition, a handful of people spoke in favour, including Hinano Rosa, the long-time executive director of the Mannawanis Native Friendship Centre. 

After offering a bit of background on the project, which came about through a partnership with Alberta Health Services (AHS), Rosa acknowledged that he was feeling emotional after hearing people speak. 

“I hear them loud and clear,” said Rosa. He explained that the Friendship Centre is not allowed to purchase or build a facility, as per the agreement with AHS, and renting is the only option. 

While another suitable building does exist in St. Paul, it is beyond the project’s budget. Miller noted that the other property is also not rezoned as Institutional, and the same process would have to take place. 

Rosa clarified that no renovations have taken place at the proposed residence, and the only thing that has happened was the delivery of 12 beds that are still in their packaging.  

Speaking to the type of clients that would live at the transitional house, Rosa said people would have to be coming out of treatment, and there would be a referral process. Clients could not have severe mental illness or severe addictions. They would need to be able to “move into independence.” 

Referring to his own personal struggles with addictions and his many years working with people who battle addiction, Rosa said he strongly believes in the importance of transitional housing. 

“I stand before you, 42 years clean and sober, because someone gave me the opportunity to get better,” said Rosa.  

He also mentioned he too went door-to-door to speak to residents about the project and was welcomed into many homes. Rosa also noted that while the process has taken much longer than anticipated, rent is being paid monthly at the residence, at a rate of $10,000 a month.  

As the public hearing ended, Miller thanked everyone for their input and for being part of the process.  

Coun. Nathan Taylor made a motion to approve second reading of the rezoning bylaw, to allow for discussion among council to take place He noted that he was proud that those who spoke did so in a positive manner, and believes the issue is not that people are against transitional housing. 

“I think tonight needs to be the beginning of the process,” said Taylor, noting that he does not believe there is enough evidence to say this was the only location that would work for transitional housing in St. Paul. 

Council voted unanimously to defeat the second reading of the rezoning bylaw.  

In closing, Miller said she hopes the community can help find a location for the transitional housing project and take the opportunity to rally around the cause. 

Janice Huser

About the Author: Janice Huser

Janice Huser has been with the St. Paul Journal since 2006. She is a graduate of the SAIT print media journalism program, is originally from St. Paul and has a passion for photography.
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