Thunder Bay council approves zoning for transitional housing facility
Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services intends to build the housing on Junot Ave.
After a lengthy public meeting attended by around 80 residents, some of whom had to watch the proceedings on video screens in the City Hall lobby, Thunder Bay City Council on Monday night narrowly approved the rezoning of a piece of land on Junot Avenue to allow for the development of a 58-bed transitional housing facility to serve Indigenous youth and young adults.
Mayor Bill Mauro voted in favour of the rezoning, along with Couns. Andrew Foulds, Kristen Oliver, Cody Fraser, Aldo Ruberto, Brian Hamilton, and Shelby Ch'ng.
Couns. Rebecca Johnson, Peng You, Brian McKinnon, and Mark Bentz were opposed.
Coun. Albert Aiello, who serves as the executive director of Boys and Girls Clubs of Thunder Bay, was absent for the discussion and vote. Aiello was found to be in a conflict of interest by the city's integrity commissioner last week for involving himself in previous votes and discussions of the facility while actively opposing the project in his capacity with the children's organization.
The facility is set to be constructed near the Boys and Girls Clubs' building.
Council previously granted the property on Junot Avenue to Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services for the purpose of constructing the complex. The land was deemed surplus by city administration.
Giertuga told council he supported the facility but not at the proposed location.
"We're talking about people that actively potentially have serious addictions, and we're putting them in an area where we know there's a lot of crime. And there's a lot of drug houses in that area," he said.
Mauro said the project was likely to run into opposition no matter where it was located.
In reaching his decision to support it, he told the crowd that he contacted Sioux Lookout mayor Doug Lawrance to learn about his experience with a similar facility in that town – also constructed and managed by Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services.
"He spoke highly of the impact – the positive impact – the facility has had in his community," Mauro said.
Mauro also noted that the Thunder Bay Police Service supports the project.
A total of 16 members of the public spoke in favour of the facility, while eight spoke in opposition.
Several other individuals signed a notice objecting to the development.
Thunder Bay City Council Monday also received the report from the City's integrity commissioner, which found Aiello to be in a conflict of interest in relation to the project and ruled that Aeillo and Coun. Brian McKinnon both violated the city's code of conduct by speaking against the development after the city had voted in favour of granting land for it.
No councillors spoke to the report at the meeting.