THE OP­POS­ING ARMY

Dozens speak at shel­ter hear­ing

Ottawa Citizen - - FRONT PAGE - JON WILL­ING jwill­ing@post­media.com twit­ter.com/JonathanWilling

Coun­cil­lors tasked with ap­prov­ing or re­ject­ing an ap­pli­ca­tion by the Sal­va­tion Army to build a shel­ter and health com­plex in Vanier are caught be­tween their planning ex­perts who have signed off on the plan and dozens of peo­ple who at­tended city hall on Tues­day to op­pose the pro­posal.

More than 160 peo­ple signed up to ad­dress coun­cil’s planning com­mit­tee on the Sal­va­tion Army’s ap­pli­ca­tion, mak­ing it one of the most con­tentious is­sues dur­ing Mayor Jim Wat­son’s ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The com­mit­tee could take up to three days to hear all of the res­i­dents be­fore mak­ing a rec­om­men­da­tion to coun­cil, which is sched­uled to vote on Nov. 22. About 30 peo­ple ad­dressed the com­mit­tee on Tues­day.

The Sal­va­tion Army wants to build a shel­ter and health fa­cil­ity at 333 Mon­treal Rd., where the Con­corde Mo­tel cur­rently ex­ists. The op­er­a­tions from the Booth Cen­tre in the ByWard Mar­ket would be moved to Vanier and the Sal­va­tion Army’s build­ing in the mar­ket would be sold.

Res­i­dents lined up to blast the Sal­va­tion Army’s pro­posal.

Car­leton Univer­sity ur­ban­ism pro­fes­sor Ben­jamin Gianni, who also lives in Vanier, said the Sal­va­tion Army ’s fa­cil­ity would “erode” a strug­gling neigh­bour­hood and he crit­i­cized the or­ga­ni­za­tion for not say­ing how the com­plex would af­fect the com­mu­nity.

“It’s down­right neg­li­gent,” Gianni said.

“We’re go­ing to end up with a Down­town East Side im­age,” Louise Levesque said, re­fer­ring to the in­fa­mous Van­cou­ver neigh­bour­hood.

“It will pre­clude busi­ness and res­i­den­tial in­vest­ment in the area and as a re­sult it will lead to a re­ver­sal to what we’ve seen in eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment on Mon­treal Road,” Vanier res­i­dent and econ­o­mist Ran­dall Bartlett said.

Tim Aubry, a Univer­sity of Ot­tawa re­searcher who lives in Or­léans, said the city needs emer­gency shel­ters, but not the size the Sal­va­tion Army wants to build in Vanier.

“And we should get peo­ple out of them as quickly as pos­si­ble, and we now have the so­cial know-how to do that,” Aubry said, em­pha­siz­ing the city’s buy-in to a “hous­ing first” home­less­ness strat­egy.

Vanier busi­nesses are also sound­ing the warn­ing bells.

Quelque Chose Patis­serie owner David Seba said Vanier res­i­dents would rather shop in his West­boro bak­ery than at his flag­ship one in Vanier.

“Things are get­ting worse in Vanier,” Seba said, al­leg­ing that his sales dropped as soon as the Sal­va­tion Army an­nounced its in­ten­tion last June to re­lo­cate the shel­ter to Vanier.

Cathie Or­fali, who will soon open a fi­nan­cial planning busi­ness in Vanier, said that if coun­cil changes the land-use rules for 333 Mon­treal Rd. to al­low a shel­ter, it would be send­ing a mes­sage to other busi­ness in­vestors: “Watch out. In­vest at your own risk.”

Ma­her Arar, the man who was falsely ac­cused as a ter­ror­ist and re­ceived a mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar set­tle­ment from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, owns a build­ing on Mon­treal Road and wor­ries about his busi­ness in­vest­ment if the Sal­va­tion Army builds the fa­cil­ity.

“If you ap­prove it, it will make a lot of peo­ple suf­fer,” Arar told the com­mit­tee.

Ot­tawa-Vanier MP Mona Fortier and MPP Nathalie Des Rosiers, who both at­tended the planning com­mit­tee meet­ing, have also writ­ten to coun­cil ques­tion­ing the Sal­va­tion Army’s pro­posal.

The pro­posed com­plex would have 140 emer­gency shel­ter beds, 100 beds for men in var­i­ous sup­port pro­grams, 50 beds for men in an ad­dic­tion and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­gram and 60 beds for men re­quir­ing spe­cial­ized health care. The build­ing would be six storeys at its tallest point and have an out­door amenity space.

City plan­ners don’t have a prob­lem with a land-use amend­ment to al­low a shel­ter to op­er­ate on the prop­erty, but the de­ci­sion is ul­ti­mately up to coun­cil.

Sal­va­tion Army staff told coun­cil­lors its Vanier com­plex would be a ma­jor im­prove­ment to its cur­rent Booth Cen­tre fa­cil­ity on Ge­orge Street. They said the whole build­ing wouldn’t be a shel­ter, even though res­i­dents and some coun­cil­lors chal­lenged them on what all the beds would ac­tu­ally be used for.

Op­po­nents largely ques­tion the ap­pro­pri­ate­ness of the emer­gency shel­ter com­po­nent of the pro­posed com­plex.

So­cial agen­cies came to the Sal­va­tion Army’s de­fence.

Marie-Josée Houle of the Ac­tion-Lo­ge­ment hous­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion, which is also lo­cated in the build­ing owned by Arar, sup­ports the Sal­va­tion Army’s plan be­cause it will be pur­pose-built to help home­less peo­ple in the cen­traleast com­mu­nity.

“They will have a place to go,” Houle told coun­cil­lors, not­ing that “home­less­ness in Ot­tawa con­tin­ues to grow.”

Deirdre Frei­heit, pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Shep­herds of Good Hope, said Ot­tawa con­tin­ues to need emer­gency shel­ters be­cause there’s a lack of af­ford­able hous­ing.

Ot­tawa In­ner City Health backed the Sal­va­tion Army, too.

Coun. Jan Harder, chair of the planning com­mit­tee, said the com­mit­tee’s de­ci­sion must be based on “sound land-use planning prin­ci­ples.”

Harder said no one will be able to ask about po­ten­tial fund­ing for the Sal­va­tion Army, hous­ing pro­grams and the char­ac­ter­is­tics of the peo­ple who will be clients of the pro­posed fa­cil­ity.

Pub­lic del­e­gates and coun­cil­lors have been talk­ing about those is­sues any­way.

A lawyer rep­re­sent­ing some Vanier busi­nesses wouldn’t be de­terred, ei­ther.

“It is fair ball to talk about the users of this fa­cil­ity and the im­pact on the neigh­bour­hood,” Michael Polowin said.

The com­mit­tee meet­ing con­tin­ues on Wed­nes­day.

We’re go­ing to end up with a Down­town East Side im­age.

JULIE OLIVER

Ot­tawa City Hall coun­cil cham­ber was packed Tues­day as the planning com­mit­tee heard sub­mis­sions on the Sal­va­tion Army’s plan to re­lo­cate its ByWard Mar­ket shel­ter to a new com­plex to be built in Vanier. Most in at­ten­dance were op­posed the plans.

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