As this is a breaking news story, it will be updated as required. Updates will be posted here.
Nov. 25, 4:57 p.m.: Comments added from Alice Kos, McCauley Community League President.
The Edmonton Subdivision and Development Appeal Board (SDAB) has revoked Boyle Street Community Service’s (BSCS) development permit.
“Boyle Street completely disagrees with the decision. The organization plans to continue to move forward with the King Thunderbird Centre and will be exploring all avenues of recourse in the coming weeks,” according to a media release from BSCS on November 25th.
BSCS says that this decision “will mean that lifesaving services desperately needed in the core of Edmonton will be impeded.”
However, for a number of McCauley residents and community organizations, this decision was welcome. “As an appellant of the development, I’m relieved by the SDAB’s decision. At the same time, it’s complicated. McCauley is an inclusive and welcoming neighbourhood. And we want the best for our neighbours who are experiencing houselessness, and living with mental health and substance use disorders,” says Alice Kos, a McCauley resident and President of the McCauley Community League, whose board voted to support the appeal.
“I admire and value Boyle Street Community Services and their programs and services. But I feel the SDAB made the right decision. We won’t tolerate the perpetual over-concentration of services in one neighbourhood – especially one that itself is entirely vulnerable. And the location of the largest of those services within one block of the city’s largest K to 12 school would be entirely inappropriate,” Kos continues.
Kos is not the only one relieved by the decision. The Chinatown BIA, Chinatown Transformation Collaborative Society (CTC), and other Chinatown organizations opposed the SDAB permit at the SDAB hearing held on November 10. Hon Leong, President of the CTC, in a letter of support supporting the BIA, listed a number of concerns.”
“As BSCS is a social agency, not a commercial enterprise, we believe that the Appeal Board should rule in favour of the Edmonton Chinatown BIA’s position that the proposed use by BSCSC is not in compliance with the land use indicated in the development permit,” Leong wrote.
“Moreover, during the development permit review stage, the City of Edmonton waived the need for a traffic impact assessment (TIA) study perhaps based on minimal vehicular traffic impact to the surround streets. In our view, the TIA study is a necessity to identify impacts to vulnerable road users such as BSCS clients who are challenged with mental and addiction issues and the large volume of students at the nearby Victoria High School. Conflicts between travelling vehicles and those vulnerable pedestrians on 101 Street and 107 Ave should be assessed to maintain traffic safety and protect vulnerable road users from potential injuries and fatalities.”
Finally Leong added that “We also believe that the development permit was approved without variances. There are a variety of uses (i.e., financial services and health) that would typically require variance and community consultation. This was not the case with this development permit.”
However, BSCS believes that “arguments made by the appellants to the development permit intentionally mischaracterized the services provided by Boyle Street and vilified those they serve. In the last year, Boyle Street has provided mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health services in the core of our city to over 7000 individuals the majority of whom are experiencing homelessness.”
Kos disagrees with the idea that the BSCS has been mischaracterized. “The reality is that a certain level of social disorder and lack of safety in McCauley / Chinatown and core neighbourhoods is connected to the over-concentration of poverty and services. That’s borne out by statistics and very visible evidence. Our entire neighbourhood system is vulnerable. Chinatown is dying. Businesses can’t operate with locked doors and smashed windows. And the level of random violence is intolerable.”
However, Kos also concerned by the “the divisiveness of this process. This appeal process has created an adversarial dynamic. But the reality is we’re not Boyle Street’s enemies. We’re not opposed to their services – only the location. We want the same as them: a healthy neighbourhood for all community members,” she explains.
The organization will continue to take steps towards the opening of the new facility in the planned location at 10010 107A Avenue.
“Over the 50-year history of our organization, we have experienced numerous challenges. This decision represents another challenge which we will undoubtedly overcome” said Jordan Reiniger, Executive Director of Boyle Street Community Services.
“We owe it to those we serve, our countless supporters, and our city to make sure this delay does not prevent us from moving forward in creating a purpose-built facility for those we serve who are put at the most risk in our society.”
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