Care homes side by side, to dis­may of neigh­bours

By­law changes al­low St. Vital project to pro­ceed with­out con­sul­ta­tion

Winnipeg Free Press - - NEWS - ALDO SANTIN aldo.santin@freep­ress.mb.ca

ITY hall’s com­mit­ment to community con­sul­ta­tions is be­ing ques­tioned by a group of St. Vital res­i­dents who say they are sur­prised by the con­struc­tion of two per­sonal-care homes, side by side on their street.

The res­i­dents say they thought the con­struc­tion of the two homes next to each other rep­re­sented a vi­o­la­tion of the city’s zon­ing by­law — but that por­tion of the by­law was changed in Jan­uary. It was one of 76 zon­ing amend­ments ap­proved on the same day by coun­cil; no prior con­sul­ta­tion was car­ried out with res­i­dence groups to ex­plain why the change was be­ing made, nor were home­own­ers asked by city of­fi­cials how they felt the change might af­fect them.

“Any neigh­bour­hood in the en­tire city of Win­nipeg could have this hap­pen to them and the neigh­bours don’t need to know,” said Jan­ice Klassen, whose fam­ily home on Hind­ley Av­enue is across the street from the project.

The two five-bed per­sonal care homes are un­der con­struc­tion at 228 and 230 Hind­ley Ave., east of St. Anne’s Road, where the street ends at the Seine River. Civic records show the homes will be sin­gle-fam­ily bun­ga­lows, each with a front porch and ad­join­ing car­ports. The builder told the Free Press the homes will be wheel­chair-ac­ces­si­ble, with roof lines sim­i­lar to those of their neigh­bours. They’ll be set the same dis­tance back from the street as the other homes, in an ef­fort to bet­ter blend into the neigh­bour­hood.

Be­fore that Jan­uary meet­ing when coun­cil ap­proved the zon­ing by­law amend­ments, the city had min­i­mum dis­tance sep­a­ra­tion re­quire­ments for per­sonal-care homes. Homes with ac­com­mo­da­tions for up to six in­di­vid­u­als could not be con­structed within 330 feet of each other, while a care home for more than six res­i­dents had to have a min­i­mum sep­a­ra­tion of 990 feet from another care home or sim­i­lar fa­cil­ity. The larger care home was des­ig­nated as only a con­di­tional use — and that re­quired a pub­lic hear­ing be­fore the board of ad­just­ment, whose de­ci­sion could be ap­pealed to a com­mit­tee of coun­cil.

When those con­di­tions were re­moved, that meant an unlimited num­ber of

Ccare homes and sim­i­lar fa­cil­i­ties could be con­structed in the same neigh­bour­hood — in all res­i­den­tial neigh­bour­hoods across the city — as long at the de­sign of the fa­cil­i­ties do not al­ter the char­ac­ter of the neigh­bour­hood.

An ad­min­is­tra­tive re­port to coun­cil sup­port­ing the 76 by­law amend­ments iden­ti­fied what it called 11 “ma­jor” and 65 “mi­nor” amend­ments. The changes af­fect­ing the per­sonal-care homes were among the ma­jor amend­ments, but the fo­cus of the re­port re­ally was on the changes that would fa­cil­i­tate the de­vel­op­ment of mi­cro-brew­eries, dis­til­leries and winer­ies.

Ward Coun. Brian Mayes said he re­called the at­ten­tion de­voted to the mi­cro-brew­ery pro­vi­sions but could not re­call the amend­ments af­fect­ing care homes — even though he voted for them at the Jan. 18 meet­ing of ex­ec­u­tive pol­icy com­mit­tee and then again at the Jan. 25 meet­ing of coun­cil.

“I cer­tainly didn’t catch (the re­moval of the min­i­mum dis­tance sep­a­ra­tion re­quire­ments) and I have no me­mory of dis­cussing it,” Mayes said.

The ad­min­is­tra­tive re­port said there was an ex­ten­sive community con­sul­ta­tion process car­ried out for all 76 amend­ments dur­ing the pre­ced­ing sum­mer and fall.

The ap­pen­dix of the doc­u­ment re­veals, how­ever, that for the per­son­al­care home changes, the only stake­hold­ers con­tacted were care-home providers who were unan­i­mous in their sup­port of the changes and wanted the city to make even more in their favour.

The ad­min­is­tra­tive re­port shows no groups rep­re­sent­ing home­own­ers were part of the con­sul­ta­tions on the care­home changes.

The broader community con­sul­ta­tions for all 76 amend­ments did in­clude a neigh­bour­hood group which was told of un­re­lated changes to park­ing reg­u­la­tions near the Health Sciences Cen­tre, but the re­port did not in­di­cate that group had been told about the changes to the per­sonal care home pro­vi­sions.

Mayes said civic plan­ning staff have since told him the per­sonal-care home changes were done at the re­quest of the city’s le­gal staff. Court chal­lenges had struck down mu­nic­i­pal pro­vi­sions restrict­ing the num­ber of such fa­cil­i­ties in the same neigh­bour­hood, con­clud­ing those were dis­crim­i­na­tory and in vi­o­la­tion of fed­eral hu­man rights leg­is­la­tion.

How­ever, the ad­min­is­tra­tive re­port makes no men­tion of the court rul­ings.

Mayes said city staff should have tried to pub­li­cize the loom­ing changes to the per­sonal-care home pro­vi­sions — as well as why they were made and how they could af­fect all sin­gle-fam­ily neigh­bour­hoods — dur­ing the con­sul­ta­tion process.

“There should have been some pub­lic­ity that that (min­i­mum sep­a­ra­tion) pro­vi­sion is no longer in ef­fect,” Mayes said.

Klassen said the city’s de­ci­sion to al­low an unlimited num­ber of care homes into the same neigh­bour­hood will al­ter the na­ture of that neigh­bour­hood dra­mat­i­cally.

“Some­thing of this mag­ni­tude, that af­fects ev­ery sin­gle homeowner in this city, should have been brought to our at­ten­tion,” Klassen said.

Klassen said once city hall de­cided to re­move the min­i­mum sep­a­ra­tion pro­vi­sions, the amend­ments should have pro­vided re­quire­ments for the ap­pli­cants or prop­erty own­ers to dis­close what type of clients the homes are in­tended to serve.

She added she and her neigh­bours don’t know if the two homes are be­ing built for in­di­vid­u­als with phys­i­cal or in­tel­lec­tual chal­lenges or the houses are tran­si­tional hous­ing for in­car­cer­ated adults or teenagers.

Klassen said neigh­bours be­lieve the two per­sonal-care homes are owned by a group of in­vestors from Bran­don. She said the builder told neigh­bours the two homes will be used for Work­ers Com­pen­sa­tion claimants but she doesn’t be­lieve that.

A spokesman for the Man­i­toba Work­ers Com­pen­sa­tion Board said while the WCB does pro­vide re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion ser­vices in a group set­ting, it has no agree­ments with any agency or for-profit cor­po­ra­tion to house claimants within a group-home set­ting.

Derek Thorstein­son, the owner of care-homes builder Parkhill Homes, de­nied telling neigh­bours the two homes will be used for WCB clients ex­clu­sively. He said his clients will de­cide who lives in the homes.

Thorstein­son would not iden­tify the own­ers.

JUSTIN SAMANSKI-LANGILLE / WIN­NIPEG FREE PRESS

Jan­ice Klassen was sur­prised to learn two per­sonal-care homes were al­lowed to be built side by side, on her street.

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