Ottawa

Fleury urges council to overturn Vanier shelter decision

An Ottawa city councillor is hoping a revelation about the Salvation Army's proposal to build a 350-bed shelter on Montreal Road will convince his colleagues to take a fresh look at the controversial plan.

Salvation Army doesn't own Montreal Road property as previously believed, councillor reveals

The previous council approved the Salvation Army's controversial plan for a 350-bed facility on Montreal Road. Now, the current council is set to vote on it again. (Salvation Army)

An Ottawa city councillor is hoping a revelation about the Salvation Army's proposal to build a 350-bed shelter on Montreal Road will convince his colleagues to take a fresh look at the controversial plan.

Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury tabled a notice of motion at the end of Wednesday's council meeting giving his colleagues warning that he wants them to rescind the approval for the project based on the recent discovery that the Salvation Army doesn't actually own the property at 333 Montreal Rd. where it wants to build the shelter.

The issue will be discussed at the next council meeting at the end of the month.

Fleury is arguing the previous council didn't have all the facts when it approved the controversial shelter in November 2017.

The Salvation Army project faced huge opposition from the community, including from this crowd of about 500 people at one of the community meetings on the issue. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Charity doesn't own property

Community members are already appealing the project to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT), where they're being represented by planning lawyer Michael Polowin. It was during the appeal process that Polowin discovered the Salvation Army doesn't own the property, even though the charity is listed as the owner on the planning application to the city.

According to Polowin, the Salvation Army has an agreement of sale with the owner of the property, but is refusing to show it to anyone. 

It's not illegal to apply for a rezoning of a property without owning it. But Fleury is arguing the councillors who voted on the project were under the impression the Salvation Army owned the property.

He argues some councillors may have supported the project because they didn't want to cause financial hardship to a charitable organization that had already purchased a property for the purpose of redeveloping it.

Councillors had the facts: Salvation Army

Glenn van Gulik, the spokesperson for Ottawa's Salvation Army, said the charity "has always maintained that it has a purchase offer, conditional on rezoning."

However, a number of official documents that the Salvation Army filed with the city list the organization as the owner of 333 Montreal Rd.

"While it is true there was an oversight on the application that indicated the Salvation Army owned the property, this was identified and corrected in the staff report prior to Planning Committee, so Committee, Council and the public had the clear facts," van Gulik wrote in an emailed statement to CBC.  

Coun. Mathieu Fleury was overcome with emotion at the end of a three-day planning committee meeting in November 2017 where a 350-bed Salvation Army facility was approved. He's now moving for council to revisit the issue. (CBC News)

Not bound by previous vote

Under the rules governing municipal councils, the 24 members of the current council are not bound by the decision of their predecessors. That means council doesn't need to vote for reconsideration of the Salvation Army issue — a measure that requires a three-quarter vote of council.

Instead, the decision on the Salvation Army can be reversed with a simple majority vote. 

Fleury and his supporters may believe this council is more likely to vote against the project.

The former council approved the Salvation Army rezoning in a 16-7 vote, but a number of the new councillors including Orléans Coun. Matt Luloff, Bay ward Coun. Theresa Kavanagh and Stittsville Coun. Glen Gower said during last year's election campaign that they didn't support the project.

Two more councillors, Kanata North Coun. Jenna Sudds and Gloucester-South Nepean Coun. Carol Anne Meehan, never explicitly said they were against the proposal, but did indicate they were unhappy with the process that led to the decision.

Marathon meetings

The debate over the Salvation Army saw huge numbers of residents flock to City Hall to make impassioned pleas, mostly against the project.

More than 140 people spoke over a three-day planning committee meeting, some arguing the Salvation Army's plan would bring too many vulnerable clients into an already struggling community.

Some argued the Salvation Army should focus its efforts on finding permanent housing for homeless people instead of building them a temporary shelter.

Others argued the shelter isn't a permitted use on a traditional main street such as Montreal Road.

Council approved the project after another three hours of debate.

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