Saturday, February 18, 2017

-Mayor Nolan Crouse brought a motion to council Dec. 5, 2016, to allow six-person group homes as permitted rather than discretionary uses under the land-use bylaw, meaning notifications would not have to go out to residents when a development permit is issued. Other councillors, while they unanimously supported the motion to have the proposed changes come to council for debate, expressed concerns about what kind of group homes would be allowed. The proposed changes are expected to come to council for debate before the end of August 2017.-------------Leah McRorie‎ to Cathy Heron - Your Voice on St. Albert City Council 5 hrs · #StAlbert should be ashamed of themselves!…/Group-home-appeal-denied-2…#Inclusion is a right not based on appeals!

Group home appeal denied
Pineview residents concerned about traffic, safety
Saturday, Feb 18, 2017 06:00 am
By: Doug Neuman
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A privately run group home for six young children will be permitted to operate in St. Albert’s Pineview neighbourhood after the subdivision and development appeal board denied an appeal.
Resident Carrie Andrews presented the appeal Feb. 15 in St. Albert council chambers on behalf of neighbouring residents, citing several concerns about the proposed group home operated by Stepping Stones Group Care.
The six children are all under the age of seven.
Andrews cited concerns about parking, traffic congestion, negative impact on amenities, loss of enjoyment of their property, safety concerns for children already in the neighbourhood, and the loss of the sense of community where everyone knows their neighbours.
She summed up the concerns in her closing statement that the group home would interfere with their “quiet enjoyment” of their property.
“It’s not the group home we are against, it’s the location of the group home,” she said. “We’re against this location in the quiet cul-de-sac.”
Board chair Dana Popadynetz explained to the 30 people in attendance that the board’s role is to rule specifically on the development application, exclusively within the context of the city’s land-use bylaw.
“The primary concern expressed tonight was traffic and safety surrounding traffic,” he said. “It’s our opinion that the applicant, and the owner-operator of this group home, made it very clear that the impact of traffic would be negligible, with a maximum of two staff vehicles there at any given time.”
This was also the opinion of the city development officer Kathleen Short. In her written submission to the board, she noted the three-car garage with a three-car driveway would provide sufficient parking at the site, and that the traffic associated with the group home would be comparable to the traffic of any large family moving into the neighbourhood.
Group homes of up to three people are a permitted use for R1 residential in the land-use bylaw, while group homes of up to six people are considered a discretionary use, meaning neighbours have the opportunity to appeal the development permit.
With a dozen neighbours speaking in opposition to the group home, the discussion got heated. At one point Popadynetz ejected a man from the hearing after several warnings about speaking out of turn, and security subsequently escorted him from the building.
Neighbours raised a broad range of issues and concerns about the group home. Most cited the traffic concerns that Andrews raised. Some said they were worried their property values would drop, and that the character of the neighbourhood would be affected.
One man said he was worried there would be “killers,” “rapists,” and “halfway-house people” in the neighbourhood. Another man asked what benefit there would be to neighbours if the group home opens.
One neighbour said she was concerned about what kind of people the staff members working in the group home would be. In total there were a dozen neighbours speaking in opposition to the application.
Efrem Bahta, Stepping Stones director, addressed many of the concerns opponents had raised. He said there would be one or two staff members on site most of the time, with visits from a social worker twice a month, and the traffic impact would be minimal.
He explained the group home is intended to house six young siblings, all under the age of seven, who have been exposed to abuse and neglect. They are currently living in separate foster homes, but provincial ministry officials asked him around Christmas time to establish a group home so they can all grow up together.
“There are not 17, 18-year-old teenagers coming out of jail,” he said. “They’re a family. They’re young kids. They’re babies for the most part.”
Bahta said he does not deal with adults, and the concern about a halfway house is unfounded as it’s not even within his organization’s area of expertise.
He said while he understands many neighbours expressed concerns about traffic, he believes those arguments are masks for “social” concerns they might have.
“The mentality of ‘not in my backyard’ is really disheartening,” he said. “These kids need a home. They have the right to live in a community. They have a right to live in a place where they add value.”
Several people spoke in support of the group home, including two who live in Edmonton who spoke in general terms about the importance of inclusiveness in communities. Two from St. Albert spoke, including Aime Hughes who said she lives next door to the proposed site.
She identified herself as a social worker and said she wanted to emphasize that not everyone in the community was opposed to the development permit, and that she supports the children moving into her neighbourhood.
“What they need is a community,” she said. “Where else are they going to go? Who’s going to care for them?”
St. Albert MLA Marie Renaud attended the hearing, and although she didn’t address the board she said afterwards she was disappointed by the “ugliness” she heard.
But she acknowledged the lack of information that’s often available to people – she herself having gone in with the impression that the group home was for adults with disabilities – and that work needs to be done.
“What I really learned is we need to clarify this process,” she said. “Whether it’s clarifying provincial legislation or municipal bylaws, we need to really look at what is causing this to continually happen.”
In this case Renaud said she hopes that once the dust settles, neighbours will welcome the family into their community.
“I think at the end of the day most people are good, and when they see these little children and understand that what they need is love and community, that hopefully things will turn around.”
Renaud has addressed city council in the past about the issue of group homes, after a similar appeal where neighbours of a proposed group home for adults with developmental disabilities was appealed. Prior to her election, she was the director of St. Albert’s Lo-Se-Ca Foundation, which provides services for adults with disabilities.
She and current Lo-Se-Ca Foundation director Carmen Horpestad expressed concern at the council meeting Oct. 3, 2016, about what they had heard at that appeal, including some who compared living next to a group home with having a death in the family and others worried about their children’s safety and dropping property values.
Mayor Nolan Crouse brought a motion to council Dec. 5, 2016, to allow six-person group homes as permitted rather than discretionary uses under the land-use bylaw, meaning notifications would not have to go out to residents when a development permit is issued.
Other councillors, while they unanimously supported the motion to have the proposed changes come to council for debate, expressed concerns about what kind of group homes would be allowed.
The proposed changes are expected to come to council for debate before the end of August 2017.

#StAlbert should be ashamed of themselves!…/Group-home-appeal-denied-2…#Inclusion is a right not based on appeals!
Pineview residents concerned about traffic, safety
Julie Ali Shameful behaviour by folks in St. Albert. It shows the poor mentality of folks in the area. Why would they do such junk? I guess ignorance and fear is all about us. What is needed if for all of us to be kind and helpful. Why would we fear a group home like this? I mean the kids are small. Why would we think our enjoyment of our property would be impacted unless we don't want these kids in our neighbourhood? I guess because we want to keep a specific group of folks out of our communities? It's shameful and we should all speak out against such ignorance.
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Catriona Johnson When I lived in the US we used to have these kind of debates come up each legislative session. Every year proposed legislation to limit group homes was stopped because of the Fair Housing Act which says you can't discriminate in housing based on race, disability, etc. While in this case these are foster children I presume that there is protections around family structure. While I appreciate there should be guidelines or policy around traffic, parking, etc, if these are dealt with I don't believe neighbors have a right to discriminate like this. Glad the appeal was denied.
LikeReply152 mins
Cathy Heron - Your Voice on St. Albert City Council Very well said Catriona, thank you. Sadly, the fear of the unknown can sometimes cause people to jump to the worst conclusions.

I am confident that once these children are settled into their new home, the residents in the area will realize there's nothing to worry about and will help to provide them with a welcoming community.
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Catriona Johnson I do hope you are right. These children deserve to live in a supportive neighborhood with lots of people to love them. It takes a village....
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Cathy Heron - Your Voice on St. Albert City Council Absolutely. That's a statement I've had on my campaign brochures sine 2010!
LikeReply132 mins
Leah McRorie Inclusion is a Verb.
LikeReply30 mins
Leah McRorie Yes having children with disability WE are fearful. PwD are fearful. Let's not forget that. But we don't go around calling people criminals & rapists.
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Leah McRorie Cathy Heron - Your Voice on St. Albert City Council Please stop using the language group home. It's outdated. A home is a home is a home. #Inclusion
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Julie Ali Leah McRorie Thank you Leah. these are ordinary citizens. We should respect all citizens. Disability is not something to avoid or something to keep out of our neighbourhoods. Why not try to get to know the folks and help them get used to their new home? Why not be kind?
LikeReplyJust now
Cathy Heron - Your Voice on St. Albert City Council Hello Leah. 

It should be noted that the right decision was made, the Subdivision & Development Appeal Board heard the facts, focused on the information, and made the right decision. While a few residents have received a lot of “press” as a result of 
this particular appeal, the right decision was made in a controlled and educated manner. 

I may have personal & passionate opinions myself on this topic, but I strongly support residents’ rights to express their points of view even when they don’t agree with my own. It’s one of the most sacred rights of our nation. 

The chair of the SDAB, Dana Popadynetz, did the right thing in ensuring a respectful environment for all sides to express their views. The 1 person who was disrespectful and unreasonable was removed from chambers, so that everyone else could participate safely. While the topic of discussion was contentious, I am very proud of the processes that were in place and executed when needed.

This allowed for several residents who supported the group home to feel safe in speaking at SDAB and expressing their views as well. 

You may want to be aware that St. Albert City Council is currently reviewing the land use bylaw regarding group homes, with the goal of making it easier for group homes to be included in our communities. Changes to bylaws are not an overnight process, though. The good news is this review was started some time ago and we are getting closer to a more inclusive bylaw.

It is my sincere hope that all residents will respect the decision of SDAB, and work together to welcome these 6 children into their new home and community.
LikeReply25 hrs
Leah McRorie Remember Larry Takahashi, beleclava rapist? 2 of those rapes occurred at RDH grouphomes, at night because he knew women were working there alone. There is no excuse for 'vulnerable' people to be put on display in a public appeal. The Provincial Safety Standards accepted by the Minister are suppose to reduce harm for PwD including being less intrusive .. appeals & public hearings are harmful, intrusive and nothing but fear mongering. 😞
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Cathy Heron - Your Voice on St. Albert City Council Very well said. Our society has come a long way, but the journey to inclusiveness isn't done yet. Still lots of work to do.
LikeReply42 mins
Julie Ali While citizens have a right to express their opinions when their opinions are ignorant other citizens have a right to say that these comments are dumb.
LikeReplyJust now
Leah McRorie Imagine how the appeal impacted the family all over again. That's a tragedy. Tragedy increases the need for #MentalHealth support. Mental Health (PTSD) is a disability. Can you imagine being the family? If I didn't have anxiety I sure would now. One man was so upset he threatened the Chair. Who should be afraid? Who should have to go to appeal to live in community and near the young family who is already traumatized? That man. That's who. This is not 1st time ppl in St Albert have appealed a home. It might be the first time ppl are are actually calling the City out on it publicly.
UnlikeReply136 mins

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