An appeal filed to stop the Parkside Inn in Grande Prairie from becoming 24-hour supportive housing has been unofficially denied. In a hearing held on December 3rd, the Subdivision and Appeals Board gave the project the green light.
Vanesa Maaren lives in Creeks Crossing Condominiums which is located 160 metres away from the Parkside Inn on 100 Avenue. She was one of the people who filed the appeal and says she’s not happy about the decision.
“I feel quite anxious and nervous about it, as do I know that the community feels the same way. The Parkside project has had an extremely negative impact on our community and it really goes against the bylaws that say we are a family friendly subdivision.”
Issues at the Parkside Inn seemed to develop over last winter after several rooms were booked by local agencies for homeless people with mental health issues. RCMP has explained that some of those vulnerable people were then taken advantage of by criminals, leading to an increase in crime in the area.
The City of Grande Prairie and the Canadian Mental Health Association have been working on turning the motel into supportive housing since the summer. It would house people with mental health issues who are not able to stay in a regular shelter. CMHA plans to have 24-hour support workers, on-site security, and controlled access for visitors.
The appeal was filed on November 6th by 19 people who live and work around the motel. In the appeal documents, they argued that having supportive housing there would lead to problems getting worse.
Assistant Legislative Services Manager Valerie Norris-Kirk says the Subdivision and Appeals Board couldn’t address many of the concerns brought forward, as they were largely crime and safety-related issues. Members can only look at land use bylaws and planning.
“Some of the issues brought forward, the board determined were outside their jurisdiction… So anything that’s either tied to crime-related activity or noise issues – that kind of thing – that’s outside their jurisdiction.”
Laura Casey moved into nearby College Park three years ago. She says this project is not what she pictured for her neighbourhood.
“Part of me is a little frustrated because it’s not obviously what I would like to see for our area. I think that if the City had taken some time to really build into College Park then we would see a new neighbourhood kind of just thrive… I hope that this isn’t a step back for us.”
Creeks Crossing resident Laura Hancharuk adds that while she wasn’t initially in favour of the project, she has seen improvements since CMHA took over.
“Since it’s become a full project and that rules and staff have been put into place the traffic of people in our area has decreased significantly and so I think that’s a positive. It’s a win-win for homeless in Grande Prairie as well as for the people within this part of our community.”
The decision will be made official next week. After that, Norris-Kirk says anyone unhappy about the way the hearing was handled can file an appeal with the Court of Queens Bench.