Lacombe County residents opposed to a proposed addiction recovery centre are not giving up their fight.
County council gave Adeara’s Lakeside Recovery Centre project a boost on Thursday when it approved zoning changes allowing a facility of its kind discretionary use in an agricultural district. Clearing that planning hurdle allows Adeara to apply for a development permit, which must be approved before the centre to be located on 80 acres just east of the Summer Village of Birchcliff can go ahead.
Kate Latos said those against the project are disappointed by council’s decision but intend to continue to lobby to stop it.
“The fight’s not over. We still think it’s an inappropriate location,” said Latos on Friday.
Many of those who have voiced objections say they do not argue that facilities such as the recovery centre are needed. However, the location close to three children’s and family camps, Birchcliff and a new residential development called The Slopes, is the wrong place, they say.
An emotional public open house at the site in February drew more than 100 people and online and paper petitions received more than 300 signatures.
Adeara wants to convert an existing 10,000-square-foot former church and conference centre into an addictions recovery centre for up to 12 women who would participate in a 90-day live-in program. The clients would have to go through an interview process and the site would be supervised at all times and visitors only allowed during set hours.
A number of residents came out to a public hearing in council chambers on Oct. 13 to voice their objection to Adeara’s plans. Several days later, about two dozen gathered outside the site to protest, some carrying placards referencing the nearby camps.
Among some residents’ fears is that the recovery centre is only the first phase of development on the site and other buildings and more residents could follow.
Latos said residents are looking at ways to better coordinate their efforts to ensure that county councillors fully understand the depth and rationale for their opposition before it gets to the development approval stage.
Residents were disappointed how little discussion there was at council about the issue before it was approved.
“We were hoping that we would have more of a chance to have input. But this is just the first step and we have one more chance and hopefully, we will be better organized.”
Consultant Benoit Trudeau said Adeara has tried to address concerns about its project. It altered its rezoning request to the county to specifically exclude detoxification as a use to reinforce that the centre is intended only for recovery programs.
Trudeau said the development permit application expected to be filed next week will be for a recovery centre only.
Any further development of the site would require years of applications and approvals, significant public consultation and likely hundreds of thousands in costs, said Trudeau, who is with Edmonton-based Work On That Inc.
A consulting study commissioned by the Summer Village of Birchcliff concludes the project would have a minimal impact, a point made by several county councillors on Thursday.
Benoit said that recovery centre proponents are willing to further talk with those concerned but he is not sure all will ever be convinced.
“At this point, I do believe there is a lot of fear-mongering,” he said, adding he believes there is also an element of not-in-my-backyard involved.
Benoit said Adeara, which began running an accredited addiction recovery centre for women and their children in Edmonton in 1998 has proven itself successful and changed many lives.
“We have a track record of 24 years of operation with zero incidents,” he said. More than 700 women have passed through its programs, which have a high success rate, he said.
Anyone who has a loved one who has suffered with addiction would appreciate being able to send them to a facility like the ones run by Adeara, he said.
County director of planning services Dale Freitag said now that a recovery centre is an approved discretionary use on the site, Adeara can apply for a development permit. Once received, it will be circulated in a 21-day public comment period.
The application then goes to the county’s municipal planning commission, which is comprised of council, for approval. Its decision can be appealed within 21 days to the subdivision and development appeal board.