It stirred up a debate about halfway houses all over again, but St. Leonard’s Society can finally renovate 22-24 Emerald St.
After three years, the city’s planning committee voted in favour of allowing a rezoning to do $3 million in renovations to the halfway house. Council ratified it Wednesday night.
But not before another debate about the halfway house’s existence, and four councillors voting against it, saying the neighbourhood didn’t want it.
“We don’t want any further additions with regard to these penal institutions in our city,” said Coun. Bernie Morelli of Ward 3.
His objection isn’t to the service, but “where they’re doing it,” he said.
The St. Leonard’s renovations include an elevator and other modifications to make the building more accessible, as well as adding heating and air conditioning and an area for social service programming.
It will not add more residents, said Tim McCabe, general manager of economic development.
Some councillors said there were too many halfway houses in one area. Coun. Sam Merulla of Ward 4 said those who were judging that sentiment didn’t even have halfway houses in their wards.
“This particular issue is an issue that means a great deal to the neighbourhood,” he said.
In the end, councillors approved the rezoning with a caveat that no more residents were added to the halfway house.
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Council also ratified a decision to quiz the federal government on why three corrections officers are being pulled from a halfway house for high-risk offenders at 94 York Blvd.
They also want to know more about when the federal government plans to move the facility — preferably out of Hamilton. The halfway house is near Jackson Square, the public library and two schools. In 2004, one of its residents stabbed a nearby woman nearly to death.
The city is inviting area MPs to attend council to answer questions about the issue.
“I’d like to hear them,” said Coun. Brad Clark of Stoney Creek. “We haven’t had them here to speak in a long time.”