Sudbury's municipal planning committee approves rehab clinic despite opposition

Sudbury's municipal planning committee has approved rezoning for a 16-bed, residential rehabilitation facility on Vermillion Lake Road, despite a lot of opposition from residents in the neighbourhood.

Teen Challenge Canada says it's never had issues with crime

The property on Vermillion Lake Road, which Teen Challenge Canada wants to turn into a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre. (City of Greater Sudbury)

Sudbury's municipal planning committee has approved rezoning for a 16-bed, residential rehabilitation facility on Vermillion Lake Road, despite a lot of opposition from residents in the neighbourhood.

Teen Challenge Canada Inc. is a 12-month, faith-based drug and alcohol rehab clinic for adults.The organization operates eight facilities across Canada.

The property on Vermillion Lake Road is the former Club Richelieu, which is already owned by Teen Challenge. The organization is not proposing any renovations to the existing buildings on the property.

However, many residents living in the neighbourhood are opposed to the facility. While many agree a rehab clinic is needed, they feel this neighbourhood is not the right location.

More than a dozen people spoke out against the rehab facility during the public hearing on Monday at city hall, and the city has received many letters of opposition about the project.

"We had a string of break ins on Vermillion Lake Road which took police two days to come and investigate, me and my wife are living on this residence, I work for myself, I'm gone lots and my wife is absolutely terrified of being at home alone with this facility changed to this rehab centre," said Wade Ostrowalker, who lives next door to the property.

For many residents in opposition to the facility, safety is their biggest concern.

"The grounds will be designed to accommodate up to 16 males covering from an array of addiction, the men may or may not have criminal histories ranging in severity... [it] is located approximately 20 - 25 minutes from the closest police dispatch, if an issue were to arise police response time may allow the situation to escalate," said Brian Tylko, another resident in the area.

"This is a risk that will be introduced to our neighbourhood and Teen Challenge does not have a way to mitigate that."

Don Trepanier, the Chief Program Officer of Teen Challenge Canada says that in the nearly 46 years of operating in Canada, the organization has never had issue with crime. The program is completely voluntary and allows its "students" to leave before the 12-month program is over, he says, which has helped mitigate issues of people trying to escape.

However, not all at the meeting were opposed to the rehab facility.

Kathleen Wynne-McAughey has personal experience with Teen Challenge Canada.

"I can confidentially say that without Teen Challenge my brother would likely not be with us and he would have died due to an overdose due to his addiction," she said.  

"I also stand here to put a face to the individuals that will be frequenting the property of Teen Challenge, whether it's to visit or volunteering, it'll be people like myself, my husband and my two children."

After hearing all the comments from residents at the public hearing, the committee made a decision. 

"The people accessing Teen Challenge's services are our brothers, sisters, fathers and daughters, they're people just like you or me, they're individuals struggling with substance use disorder, which is a mental and physical health issue and should be treated as such," said Councillor Geoff McCausland.

"This is not a criminal justice issue and we must not assume these people are criminals," he said, adding that he understood why people had concerns.

The committee approved the rezoning application. However it stipulated that the property must have an opaque fence in the front and on the two sides of the property. The application now goes to Sudbury City Council for a final decision.



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