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The council chamber at Ottawa City Hall was full again Wednesday, the second of a three-day meeting to discuss the Salvation Army’s controversial proposal to build a 350-bed facility on Montreal Road in Vanier.
As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 170 people had signed up to speak to the issue.
The morning ended with Jamie Anderson playing the members of the planning committee Beethoven’s Ode to Joy on the guitar.
“I’m a music teacher, I teach in my home studio in Vanier,” Anderson told councillors. She said she advertises her studio as being near Beechwood Avenue, closer to tonier New Edinburgh.
“I hate doing that … but if I said Vanier, I’d get fewer phone calls,” she said.
Chair clears chamber
Anderson said that at a recent meeting, she asked Salvation Army representatives what she should tell her students about the shelter moving in.
“And he smiled and he said, ‘Well maybe our clients will want guitar lessons.’ I didn’t even know how to answer that. Does he have so little regard for his clients that he can joke about them?”
Moreover, Anderson said, the representative’s attitude indicated “they have a disregard for the businesses there.”
Anderson’s emotional public deputation sparked audience applause — which isn’t allowed during standing committee meetings — and led chair Jan Harder to clear the gallery.
“I’ve warned you so many times,” Harder said, clearly exasperated by what has been a long and often heated meeting.
Councillors spent the first hour of the meeting questioning lawyer Michael Polowin, who’s arguing against the proposal on behalf of two Vanier business owners.
The Salvation Army’s proposal hinges on council exempting it from city planning policies that forbid emergency shelters on traditional main streets such as Montreal Road.
That prompted Harder to warn public delegations to stick to the narrow planning issue, and not to speak about the activities of the men who would use the facility, the city’s housing first policy or how the Salvation Army would fund this project.
But Polowin argued that the rules do permit leeway to consider the community impact of a land use, which is also a planning issue.
Support for proposal
Some delegations spoke in favour of the proposal Wednesday, including the executive director of the ByWard Market BIA.
“Let’s be real, no matter where this was proposed, there would be hundreds of people opposed,” said Jasna Jennings. “And when all is said an done, the doom and gloom never materialized.”
Jennings said the only issue the BIA has the Salvation Army’s current location on George Street is that men loiter on the sidewalk, but said an internal courtyard in the new proposal should solve that problem.
Julius Bango, a resident of the Salvation Army’s life skills program for about three months, also addressed the committee.
“I’ve been to a lot of programs because of my alcoholism, but none of those programs addressed how to live,” he told the committee.
“I encourage the committee not to miss the boat on this one,” he said. “There are a lot of people out there that need this kind of help. This new facility is needed … there’s lives out there that actually depend on it. So make the right decision.”
Most of the other public delegations spoke against the project, including Tara O’Halloran, who lives in a condo across from the Salvation Army’s current location on George Street.
O’Halloran said she doesn’t believe the proposal is the best way to help the homeless, and argued that “holistic strategic planning is not done in a vacuum.”
One speaker after another expressed skepticism about various aspects of the proposal.
“We heard from the Salvation Army that this was the only location for this facility,” said Natalie Belovic. “I find this ludicrous.”
She wondered why other sites such as LeBreton Flats, Bayview Yard, Shoppers City East or the upcoming Gladstone redevelopment were not considered.
There were still more than 100 people scheduled to speak as of Wednesday afternoon, although the meeting is set to end at 5 p.m. The planning committee will sit for a third day on Friday, and stay late into the night until all the public delegations have been heard.
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Originally posted 2017-11-15 15:01:47. Republished by Blog Post Promoter