St. John's city council has rejected an application to set up an addiction treatment centre on the outskirts of St. John's, although the decision was based on the cost of a road rather than the type of programming the centre plans to offer.
Teen Challenge Canada would like to build a 25-bed centre on more than 50 hectares of land that used to be known as the Circle Square Ranch, off Fowlers Road, near the Foxtrap area of Conception Bay South.
The organization's proposal, which would be aimed at women over 18 who are trying to overcome substance abuse problems, would be "conveniently nestled on the rural borders of the St. John's area."
Coun. Tom Hann said the current proposal is unacceptable because it would require the city to spend more than $750,000 on a new road to the facility.
"The problem is that no matter what the cost, the city does not build roads to remote and unserviced areas — in fact, the city doesn't build roads at all," Hann said.
Hann added that council was told that a fully paved road would be necessary to allow ambulances, fire trucks, and other important vehicles easy access to such a facility.
"It's a pretty remote area for that kind of thing, without the proper infrastructure around it — especially in the wintertime, and that was the concern of council," Hann told the St. John's Morning Show.
Hann described the existing gravel road as "not up to any safety standard whatsoever," and was inherited by the city when it took over lands formerly governed by Goulds during an amalgamation in the early 1990s.
Coun. Bernard Davis said councillors recognize that more services are needed for addiction treatment services.
"I think it was a hard decision not to support this. We all see the benefits for the city and the whole province at large," Davis said.
At Monday night's regular meeting, councillors said they would like to see Teen Challenge Canada return with another proposal. Some suggested that the organization turn to the Newfoundland and Labrador government for support.
In an interview, Hann said the key issue has to do with setting a precedent on paving rural access roads in unserviced areas.
"If we started building roads, we wouldn't be able to keep up with it financially," he said, adding that the cost of such infrastructure construction is the responsibility of a developer. The city assumes control of maintenance when construction is completed.