Red Deer city councillor Michael Dawe supports the Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Shelter but has questions about the site of a proposed expansion. (Advocate file photo).

Central Alberta women’s shelter expansion gets initial rezoning approval from Red Deer city council

Some questions remain about the suitability of the site, which borders a creek

Red Deer city council got the ball rolling Monday on a zoning change that could allow the local women’s shelter to expand.

But some red flags were raised about the suitability of the land chosen for an expansion to provide more accommodation for Central Alberta women fleeing domestic violence.

Like other city councillors, Michael Dawe supported first reading for the rezoning so it will trigger June 24 public hearing. Dawe said he’s a big supporter of CAWES and believes it provides an important service — but has concerns about the 47th Avenue land under consideration.

“I’m not swept away with this…”

He mentioned severe flooding happened in the late 1960s on the creek that runs alongside the undeveloped land upon which the expansion is being proposed (5301, 5313, 5317 and 5321-47th Ave.).

“It doesn’t mean erosion is going to be a problem again,” added Dawe. But he noted an engineering study will be needed to ensure the bank is safe from further erosion so the city isn’t blamed for allowing a new development on an inappropriate site.

Dawe and Coun. Dianne Wyntjes also aired concerned about the future of the log scouting hut from to the 1930s that occupies a portion of the land.

“It has historic value,” said Dawe, “but is it worth the money and time it would take to restore it? …It can be moved, but would it be transferred to public ownership?”

Tara Lodewyk, general-manager of planning for the city, said these concerns do not have to be answered at this rezoning stage.

Council heard that the CAWES expansion project is being driven by rising demand.

Coun. Vesna Higham said she was saddened by the “astronomical” increases in the numbers of CAWES clients — especially those seen by outreach staff.

Last year, the Red Deer Women’s Emergency Shelter received 2,008 crisis calls, but only had spots for 513 women and 185 children in need. The rest were referred to other shelters, or assisted while staying in the community.

CAWES officials now want to create 48 shelter beds in 24 larger rooms, plus 12 second-stage apartments. This compares to40 beds in 16 small rooms that CAWES now operates.

The project would also have a revenue-generating commercial space at street level for a business that could serve women’s centre clients. Some suggestions were a hairdresser or fitness centre.

Council decided to put future commercial uses under the direct control of the municipal planning commission so uses can comply with what’s acceptable to residents of the area.

In February, eight immediately affected property owners attended an open house and aired concerns about a potential increase in traffic, a decline in their property values and possible flooding and environmental degradation. A minority were in support of the project.

City council’s first reading approval includes a stipulation that on-street garbage receptacles be part of the project. Coun. Lawrence Lee pushed for this after noticing more refuse being dumped on sidewalks and parking lots where these don’t exist.

Anyone can provide written comments to the city about the proposed project before the June 24 hearing. Comments can also be emailed in during the videotaped hearing, which can be viewed from the city’s website.

Red Deer City Council

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