Council approves contentious safe consumption site location

Safe consumption site will go at 5233 54th Ave.

A safe consumption site will go at a contentious downtown location.

Council voted in favour of bylaw changes allowing Turning Point to set up a site to serve those struggling with opioid addictions at 5233 54th Ave., just around the corner from the Safe Harbour Society.

A public hearing two weeks ago drew a huge crowd to council chambers, spilling over into a nearby conference room, where people could watch the hearing through a video link.

Coun. Vesna Higham said she could not support the proposed location,pointing out there was a better location on former public works land nearby that would have less impact on neighbouring businesses.

Higham said she does not support the location because of its proximity to the nearby Central Alberta Archery facility, which attracts 7,000 largely youth visits per year, and the adjacent Harvest International Church, which draws many families.

”I think we need to remember what’s going on in the surrounding area,” she said.

Higham was also concerned that allowing the safe consumption site so close to Safe Harbour would amount to “clustering” social agencies.

Higham was critical of the provincial inaction on taking a co-ordinated approach to the opioid crisis. The city has been begging for more resources, she said.

”That request and those pleas have fallen on deaf ears.”

Coun. Frank Wong acknowledged that a number of concerns have been raised about the location. Most, if not all, of those can be addressed before the city approves a development permit, he said.

Coun.Ken Johnston said the community is facing a health crisis and the time is right to help Turning Point respond.

Johnston called on the city and the community to meet at a “summit” to discuss the opioid crisis and how it can be addressed.

”The status quo is not working.”

Coun. Lawrence Lee said the issues boils down to whether a safe consumption site is a proper land use for the site. It meets that test and the impact of the facility on the neighbourhood can be addressed through city requirements.

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