Opponents of the Red Deer Dream Centre — a live-in addiction treatment facility approved Wednesday for the downtown — are unlikely to appeal its location.
The Red Deer subdivision and development appeal board overruled the municipal planning commission’s rejection of the controversial project proposed for the former Lotus nightclub building, at 4614 50th Ave.
“We would absolutely love to appeal. We’ve talked about it. But after getting some legal advice, our chances are slim,” said downtown business owner Lorna Watkinson-Zimmer.
The municipal planning commission refused a development permit for the centre on the grounds that it was not compatible with existing developments or the municipal development plan for downtown.
But the appeal board felt the use fell within the Land Use Bylaw for downtown, which allows for offices, institutional facilities and temporary care facilities.
Watkinson-Zimmer said the facility will be detrimental for both business and people who live downtown, however, the appeal board said putting the centre in another part of the city could create more negative impacts for residents.
“There’s residential downtown. There’s apartments. There’s houses,” Watkinson-Zimmer said, adding that a nearby condominium building has about 200 residents.
As a former city councillor who helped develop the Greater Downtown Action Plan, she said the appeal board was also incorrect to say that such addiction services were part of the downtown revitalization plan.
Watkinson-Zimmer said the appeal board’s hearing held in November was blatantly one-sided. Thirty-four supporters spoke for three minutes each, she said, while the lawyer representing hundreds of businesses and residents was given only 10 minutes.
“I love the downtown. I would never, ever have been anywhere except down here. We’ve got a community down here and it’s wonderful. I just don’t want it eroding.
“We feel for homeless. We feel for drug addicts. We believe there has to be (a treatment centre). But it’s the location. It doesn’t belong here. What needs to be changed is the Land Use Bylaw,” Watkinson-Zimmer said.
Dream Centre supporters were pleased with the appeal board’s decision.
Kath Hoffman, executive director of the Safe Harbour Society, which runs a downtown drug and alcohol detox program, said she was thrilled with the decision and very happy to see Red Deer get residential treatment.
“The Dream Centre is one of the many treatment options we need to help address the addiction crisis we are in,” Hoffman said.
She said there was nowhere in Red Deer where the centre would be welcome.
“Every corner of the city would make noise,” Hoffman said.
Janet Balmer, a resident at a large Taylor Drive condominium complex, said the downtown location makes sense.
“Red Deer desperately needs it. I think everything is down there. It’s a good place for a treatment centre,” Balmer said.
“I don’t believe in the ‘not in my backyard’ syndrome. It has to be in somebody’s backyard.”
She said many residents in her condo building were against the project, but some were in favour.
“A lot of people misunderstand. There will not be 50 people wandering around with needles in their arms or bottles in bags.”
She said right now, people can’t access treatment in Red Deer once they go through detox. Some people don’t want to leave Red Deer, or can’t afford treatment elsewhere.
Balmer said if the building doesn’t become a treatment centre, it may become a nightclub again, which she would not want to see.