After years of delays, managers of a lower-city halfway house should learn once and for all on Oct. 1 whether they can renovate to become more accessible to clients who are disabled.
The St. Leonard's Society of Hamilton has worked for three years to get a zoning change and approval to modernize its building at 22-24 Emerald St., which houses recently released inmates. On Aug. 13, the city planning committee told it to wait a little bit longer so Coun. Bernie Morelli could do some community consultation on his own.
But the organization appeared before the committee again on Wednesday, saying it couldn't reach Morelli and that it was anxious to move forward.
"We feel it is time to approve the application," said Ed Fothergill, a planner for St. Leonard's.
'Maybe it's time to move to Burlington so they can take on their share of the load.'— Coun. Terry Whitehead
For 38 years, the home has served as a transition house for former inmates reintegrating into society. Its recidivism rate is low, executive director John Clinton said at the meeting. And they have gotten few complaints from neighbours.
"It's an essential service and we've done it without a whole lot of opposition," he said.
The society needs a zoning change for the work because the city's zoning bylaw has changed several times in the last 38 years, Clinton said.
It hopes to incorporate an elevator, make its rooms and washrooms wheelchair accessible and add a social services component so residents can continue to access counseling and employment services.
Morelli told CBC Hamilton in August that he wants the halfway house out of his ward. There are already too many like facilities in the area, he said.
"Any additions to this magnitude of correction facilities in the inner city, I can't support," he said. "It's not the work they do, it's the location."
At Wednesday's meeting, Coun. Terry Whitehead wondered if Hamilton was becoming "a dumping ground" for corrections cases.
Hamilton has enough corrections facilities, he said during Clinton's presentation.
"Maybe it's time to move to Burlington so they can take on their share of the load," said Whitehead, who represents Ward 8 on the Mountain.
Clinton countered by saying the use of the building isn't changing. It just needs to be more accessible.
It's time to move on, said Coun. Brad Clark of Stoney Creek.
"This is just the renovation of a property," he said. "It's been three years."