The Government of Alberta asked Red Deer city council to pick another site for the permanent homeless shelter after concluding that the first choice was “unsuitable.”
As a result, councillors rescinded their Sept. 12 vote for the first site on Tuesday and then voted unanimously for a second location for the shelter instead.
Both locations were not made public under provisions of the Freedom of Information, Protection of Privacy Act that protects land negotiations.
Johnston did say the second site that’s now the front-runner is on private land.
If it’s approved by the province, provincial government officials will be negotiating for the land purchase.
City Manager Tara Lodewyk said it’s premature to speculate whether there needs to be a public hearing on this site selection. A hearing would be required if a rezoning or amendment to the Area Structure Plan is needed — and much of this depends on the scope and style of the development being proposed.
Otherwise, project development decisions would rest with the Municipal Planning Commission, city council or another development authority, and the public would not have a say at a hearing.
Mayor Ken Johnston feels provincial officials will be more supportive of this second site, which does not come with some of the factors that the province found objectionable — including matters of proximity to services needed by shelter clients.
The provincial government will be the shelter operator “and the operator saw the site in a different way than the city did,” said Johnston.
He noted provincial officials asked the city on Oct. 1 for “the next couple of sites” that were on the list of possibilities.
“We presented the sites to the province and I am (optimistic) we will have concurrence…. We have already involved and engaged our provincial colleagues, and we anticipate our recommendation will be formally accepted,” said Johnston.
The current landowner of the recommended site is aware of The City’s recommendation to the Province of Alberta.
“We know our community has been awaiting a decision about the future location for the future shelter,” said Johnston. “I want to assure our community we will share the future location as soon as possible but right now, we have a legal responsibility to work through these negotiations while respecting the role of the Province of Alberta and the private landowner.”
“I truly believe the proposed site will foster integration and innovation in a whole new way as we look to address the unique challenges those experiencing homelessness face daily, ” added the mayor. He believes the second site still considers the needs “of not only our most vulnerable but the needs of our entire community.”
City council considered input of our community stakeholders, and partners in this process. Johnston said, “I speak on behalf of my Council when I say how appreciative we are of our community’s contribution to the site selection process and that we have truly listened to what our community shared with us.”
However, it now could take a while before an answer on the site is received from the province. Alberta has a new premier who could shake up department ministries.
Johnston said Oct. 21 is the date of the new cabinet announcement. If there isn’t a big disruption in the departments involved with Red Deer’s shelter project, he expects to hear something soon after.
The mayor added that it’s too early to tell whether the permanent shelter can still be built by March 2024 as planned. It will depend on the length of land negotiations, whether there needs to be a public hearing and other considerations, he added.
If the temporary shelter needs to stay longer at the Cannery Row site downtown, Johnston said council will deal with it in a timely matter.
For more information on the future shelter project, visit www.reddeer.ca/shelter