Ottawa

Bid to halt Salvation Army shelter rejected by council

Ottawa city council has narrowly rejected Coun. Mathieu Fleury's bid to halt the Salvation Army's controversial shelter on Montreal Road.

Coun. Mathieu Fleury's motion to repeal previous council's approval loses in 12-10 vote

Ottawa city council voted down Coun. Mathieu Fleury's attempt to revoke approval for the controversial Salvation Army project on Montreal Road. (Salvation Army)

Ottawa city council has narrowly rejected Coun. Mathieu Fleury's bid to halt the Salvation Army's controversial shelter on Montreal Road.

Fleury asked his colleagues to revoke the previous council's decision to allow the 350-bed facility in the heart of Ottawa's Vanier neighbourhood, arguing that some councillors may have voted without knowing the charity doesn't actually own the property.

Council voted 12-10 against Fleury's motion, much closer than the 16-7 vote during the previous council term that approved the project.

The Salvation Army has made overtures to community groups in the last few weeks to alter the project. The proposed changes include reducing the number of shelter beds from 140 to as few as 70, adding supportive housing and keeping its addictions treatment centre in the ByWard Market.

The charity said they sent out invitations to a consultation before Fleury tabled his motion. Still, some opponents of the project called the Salvation Army's lobbying and media blitz of the last several days a stunt.

Orléans Coun. Matt Luloff says voting against the motion to revoke the approval for the Salvation Army project was the most difficult decision he's made at council so far. (CBC)

First-time councillor put on spot

Orléans Coun. Matt Luloff — a first-time councillor and former veteran — said the Salvation Army told him just before Wednesday morning's council meeting that they would have dedicated private beds for homeless veterans, a cause dear to Luloff's heart.

Luloff said during last fall's election campaign that the former council had made the wrong decision on the Salvation Army file.

Still, he wasn't willing Wednesday to vote to rescind the project's approval.

"I hate the idea of even needing a new shelter," he told his colleagues. "I wanted the community to be heard. I wanted the Salvation Army to listen and, quite frankly, I wanted this matter settled before I sat at this table."

Mayor Jim Watson says no proposal will satisfy shelter opponents 0:46
Opponents of the Salvation Army's proposed project, shown here during a multi-day committee meeting in 2017, are appealing the plan and vow to take it to court if necessary. (Joanne Chianello/CBC)

'Clearly it was a conditional offer'

Luloff said one reason he voted against Fleury's motion was that he felt it was misleading.

Fleury had said the Salvation Army had misrepresented itself as the owners of the Montreal Road property, which may have influenced some councillors' decisions to vote in favour of the plan.

The organization did call itself the property "owner" on several official city documents, but also told councillors at a public meeting that it only had a conditional agreement to purchase the land.

That inconsistency may have given some councillors cover to vote against Wednesday's motion. Certainly, Mayor Jim Watson — who was an earlier and vocal supporter of the plan — took aim at the whole ownership argument.

"Every member of the previous council knew exactly the ownership, because the question was asked at planning committee," said the mayor, urging council to vote against the motion. 

"All of the final documents indicated clearly it was a conditional offer."

Community group SOS Vanier is appealing the city's approval of the project to the province's Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.

Fleury said at council Wednesday that if the appeal fails, the community will challenge the decision in court, which could delay the project for years.

 

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