Stephenville taking Blue Sky appeal decision to Supreme Court
An appeal board in August overturned town's decision to block group home from operating
The CEO of a company that's trying to open a youth foster home in a residential area in Stephenville says she's disappointed the town is continuing to fight against it.
Blue Sky CEO Anne Whelan said the company has been contracted by the provincial government to open a group home in the community, but the town had initially turned town the company's proposal because it considered the home an institution.
The company brought the town's decision to the West Newfoundland Regional Appeal Board, which decided in September the home was not institutional.
At the time, Whelan said she was hopeful the town would reconsider the company's application, but the town council has decided to take the case to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador
It's like saying, you've got four legs and a tail, so we're going to call you a cat, even though it's obvious you're a dog.- Blue Sky CEO Anne Whelan
"I guess the word for us is, a bit disappointed, and also somewhat frustrated," Whelan said.
CBC approached Stephenville Mayor Tom O'Brien for comment. He declined.
Whelan said the company had already hired staff and purchased a $250,000 home in Stephenville that it hasn't been able to use. Instead it's brought children in the government's care to other jurisdictions.
Between a rock and a hard place
"It wasn't like Blue Sky decided, 'Let's go open up a group home in Stephenville.' Government issued a request for proposals, and specifically advised us that it had to be in Stephenville," she said.
"We've been asked to put a group home in Stephenville, and the Town of Stephenville is saying no, so it's a rock and a hard place."
An appeal board in eastern Newfoundland overturned a decision by town council in Marystown in August after the community turned down a similar proposal from Blue Sky.
Council in Marystown said it would not appeal to board's decision, instead allowing the company to operate the home.
"They're saying that the board didn't really have the right to decide what they decided, and even if they did they made the wrong decision. So the town is arguing that the selection of a definition, the town's initial decision was that we weren't a group home, we're an institution, and they're arguing that they have the discretion to make that decision," said Whelan.
"It's like saying, you've got four legs and a tail, so we're going to call you a cat, even though it's obvious you're a dog. And that's kind of what the Town of Stephenville has done — they've said, 'We think this is an institution,' even though we clearly believe that we fall within the definition of a group home."
Whelan added that unless the town changes its mind, the court process is likely going to be a lengthy one. Similar cases took roughly one year in court to resolve.
"I understand the initial concern that people have about a group home coming into their neighbourhood, but the real story here is that we were asked to put a group home in for children," she said. "And we think, without meaning to point fingers — we're trying to be conciliatory about this — but we think the town is really going to extreme measures to keep out young people from a group home that we were asked to put in their town."
Whelan said she doesn't expect the matter to be resolved quickly, but in the meantime the company has to continue the care of children in the government's care.