City council rejects warming centre at former Parks building

City council nixed a former Parks building in the Railyards District as the temporary location for a warming centre for the homeless.

City council nixed a former Parks building in the Railyards District as the temporary location for a warming centre for the homeless.

Councillors voted six to two against rezoning the building at 4934 54th Ave. to allow the centre to operate there for up to two years following a public hearing held Monday night.

Mayor Tara Veer and Coun. Lynne Mulder voted in favour of rezoning.

Last year Berachah Place closed and a temporary warming centre was set up at the Seventh-day Adventist Church in downtown Red Deer. City staff looked at different sites and determined the best location was in Railyards.

Out of ten written submissions the city received about the proposed location, only one was in favour. Three of nine letters in opposition were written by the same business.

Three area business owners spoke out against the location during Monday’s hearing.

Devon Snideman, of Dick’s Auto and Truck Repair located directly north of the site, said property damage, panhandling, traffic disruptions from inebriated people crossing the road, and garbage from ‘urban campers’ already exist in the area.

“This establishment would naturally become a hangout and would cause all these issues tenfold,” said Snideman during the hearing.

Coun. Ken Johnston said a tipping point has been reached between providing services to the vulnerable homeless community and the business community.

“(The business community) is now feeling they are becoming more and more marginalized, their opinions are becoming marginalized, that their visions are becoming marginalized, that their way of doing business is becoming marginalized,” said Johnston who voted against the rezoning.

Coun. Lawrence Lee agreed the location was not conducive for the warming centre and could impact the city’s long-term vision for the Railyards District.

“Safety can be achieved at a number of sites and connection to housing is inherent in how the programming is delivered, how the site is operated. I think that can be achieved at any location,” Lee said.

Coun. Frank Wong recommended the city consider using the former RCMP building for the warming centre which even has showers and an outside smoking area.

“It’s got the least impact on neighbours. I still think this is our best choice. I think it fits perfectly,” Wong said.

City administration said the heating, cooling and air system in the former police headquarters requires major repairs or replacement at significant cost.

“It would feel like throwing good money after bad in order to upgrade a building that is ultimately slated for demolition hopefully sooner rather than later,” Mayor Veer said.

She said council still wants a warming centre but right now there are no clear parameters around where it will be.

“Administration will likely regroup, revisit probably some of the other locations that were proposed a few months ago and will likely come forward with another option that maybe doesn’t meet the needs of service providers, but maybe withstands the litmus test of public acceptability,” Veer said.

In other council news:

• City council unanimously approved that Sylvan Lake Regional Water Commission could tap into the Red Deer’s water treatment and transmission system. Full cost of capital and operations will be borne by the Sylvan region which must also provide ongoing water conservation programs and initiatives similar to those provided in Red Deer.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

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