Kitchener-Waterloo

Council will keep consumption site out of Cambridge core areas, mayor says

Cambridge councillors voted on a recommendation to give council the most say possible on where a future consumption and treatment services site could go in the city. While it opens up the entire city as a possible location, Mayor Kathryn McGarry says council will avoid core areas.

Councillors received a planning report that lays out how they can have most say in a location

This file photo shows the interior of the consumption and treatment site in Kitchener, which opened in October 2019. Cambridge council voted in favour of a planning report recommendation that will give councillors more control over where a potential site could go in Cambridge. (Julianne Hazlewood/CBC)

A consumption and treatment services site could be located anywhere in Cambridge after a decision by city councillors Tuesday night, but Mayor Kathryn McGarry says council will continue to argue against putting one in the core areas of Galt, Preston and Hespeler.

During the committee meeting, Cambridge councillors were presented with a report from Nick McDonald of Meridian Planning Consultants, which laid out how council could go about deciding where to put a potential consumption and treatment services site in the city.

The report was presented because the city's interim bylaw preventing consumption and treatment services sites in the core areas of the city is set to expire in March.

There were six options presented to councillors. Those options varied from the city setting up a temporary use zoning bylaw to allow a consumption and treatment site in one area, allowing a site anywhere in the city or prohibiting a site anywhere in the city.

Some of the options left the city open to being overruled by the Region of Waterloo or the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (formerly known as the Ontario Municipal Board), McDonald noted in his presentation.

Option five, which councillors ultimately voted in favour of, means from a city planning perspective, council could put a potential consumption and treatment services (CTS) site anywhere in the city, but it also gives councillors more power to decide where a site goes, Mayor Kathryn McGarry told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo's The Morning Edition on Tuesday.

Opening up the entire city shouldn't concern residents who don't want to see a site in the cores, she said.

"Council has been consistent in making decisions to prevent a CTS site in our downtown cores and the 500 meter buffer" from the downtown cores, McGarry said.

Listen to the interview with Mayor Kathryn McGarry:

Cambridge councillors voted on a recommendation to give council the most say possible on where a future consumption and treatment services site could go in the city. While it opens up the entire city as a possible location, Mayor Kathryn McGarry says council will avoid core areas. 7:34

Mixed messages from public

During the meeting, Coun. Mike Mann said he has heard from community members on both sides of the issue.

"I'm not a control freak, but in this case, I want to be. I want to have control about what decisions we make for our community," Mann said.

Councillors heard from a number of residents who both support and do not want a consumption and treatment services site in the city.

Resident Adam Cooper said he wanted the councillors to consider banning the sites in the city altogether.

"Stand up for your residents," he said. "I ask you to show some political will." 

Keith Rivers, a member of Citizens for Cambridge volunteer group, said the city needs to move on a site because there's a need in the community.

"We have a series of unsafe injection sites in this community now," he said. "We need pathways for treatment for drug users. That's something that everybody wants."

'Balance the needs'

McGarry said Tuesday night's decision is another step in the process to a potential site.

The decision from Tuesday night still needs to be ratified by council and then the site selection committee can take direction from the report as it looks for a location for a potential CTS site.

McGarry says council is sympathetic to people who want to see a consumption and treatment services site open as soon as possible, but there are other concerns to consider.

"We are trying to work ahead, trying to balance the needs of those individuals that need this site as well as those individuals that are impacted by the issues around our drug addiction issues such as crime and theft," McGarry said.

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