If Fredericton council blocks jail project, province will look to build elsewhere: minister
City's planning advisory committee recommends that council deny zoning request
New Brunswick's minister of infrastructure says if the City of Fredericton doesn't allow the rezoning needed for a $38-million provincial jail, the province will look elsewhere.
Fredericton's planning advisory committee recommended this week that council deny the zoning request.
This means council will have to have at least seven yes votes for the zoning to go through when voting on the issue is held on Jan. 23, according to city spokesperson Shasta Stairs. That is even if only eight or nine councillors are present at that meeting.
In November, council voted 6-4 to sell the Vanier Industrial Park land to the province for the jail.
Also, if a councillor is not present for a public-input session on Jan. 9, they're automatically disqualified from voting on the issue two weeks later, Stairs said.
Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Jeff Carr said Friday that the province will "go back to the drawing board with the city and and we'll assess other properties" if the city doesn't believe that piece of property is the right fit for the jail.
If the city doesn't want the jail at all, Carr said: "Absolutely, we'll look at outside the city, and … we'll respect the process in place at this point in time."
The city has been hearing from dozens of residents who believe the jail is a bad idea for the city. The advisory committee received more than 60 letters of opposition.
The letters express concern for safety and property values, but the majority question the need for jail and why the province is not putting those millions toward affordable housing and mental health.
Many of the letters have the same wording, which includes a concern the jail "will be targeting the most vulnerable members of our communities: people with mental illness who live in poverty."
Carr says opponents aren't seeing the benefits
Carr said he commends residents for making their voices heard.
He said Friday that opponents of the project, including Liberal Party Leader Susan Holt, are not seeing the benefit of the facility and how it helps people that are in recovery.
"There is going to be a portion of this facility that will have a recovery centre for those people that have alcohol and drug addiction issues," he said.
CBC has reported the province is withholding records that explain the reason for the decision to build this jail.
The province has previously said a Fredericton jail is needed because of overpopulation and transportation issues for people who currently have to be held in Saint John.
Men's jails were not overpopulated until months after the announcement of the new jail, CBC News analysis has found.
People accused of crimes in Fredericton are held in remand in the Saint John jail and transported, sometimes daily, for court appearances.
Carr also said the Vanier Industrial Park location is suitable because water and sewer infrastructure is already available and being close to the highway helps as well.
"If the city says no, there are other communities in the area that have water and sewer," he said.