Nfld. & Labrador

Marystown council votes against Blue Sky youth home proposal

The council in Marystown has voted against a proposal from a company to open a youth care home in a part of the town.

The council in Marystown has voted against a proposal from a company to open a youth care home in a part of the town. 

Area residents attended a public meeting on Tuesday night to express their concerns regarding Blue Sky opening and managing the home in their neighbourhood.

A group of concerned residents in Marystown attended a public meeting on Tuesday night, as council voted to reject Blue Sky's proposal to open a youth care home in the town. (CBC)
Blue Sky takes care of foster children who have a myriad of needs — from those requiring temporary accommodation to those dealing with serious issues. 

Town council had previously held two meetings for residents to voice their opinions.

"You keep saying this is a foster home, but it is a group home who can house children with drug addictions, sex offenders, aggressive behaviour, youth corrections involvements and so on," Marystown resident Wanda Barron said.

The residents said the company quietly moved youth with behavioural issues from Burin to Marystown, with no notice to the residents, and no regard for their concerns.

"This affects the safety of our kids, it is a needless worry put on our seniors that may affect their health, we will not feel safe and no one else will want to live there," Barron said.

Councillors said their decision was not an easy one because the lines between a group home and a business are unclear.

Marystown Councillor Lisa Slaney. (CBC)
But in the end, council voted against the proposal from Blue Sky. 

"If we're going to move forward as a council and say, 'Yes this is a permitted use in a residential area,' we then have to realize the precedents that we set and how you bring that to the future because you will open up a can of worms," said councillor Lisa Slaney.

 In March, the provincial government announced a new framework for staffed residential care. Part of that process included the awarding of a private contract for three youth care homes on the island: T.J. MacDonald Achievement Home in Burin, Pine Heights Group Home in Grand Falls-Windsor, and the Bay St. George Youth Assessment Centre in Stephenville

Blue Sky CEO Anne Whelan said she was disappointed with Tuesday's decision and the reaction from the residents.

"Fundamentally, what we heard tonight was a 'not in my backyard' kind of conversation," said Whelan. 

"People don't mean to be judgmental about people with physical or mental impairments. I think engaging in more public understanding is really the key." 

Council did, however, leave the door open for Blue Sky to propose another location for the home. 

Whelan said she will appeal council's decision first.