Tribunal dismisses Vanier 'mega shelter' appeal


A provincial tribunal has dismissed an appeal aimed at stopping the controversial Salvation Army “mega shelter” in Vanier.

In 2017, city council approved the necessary official plan and zoning amendments to allow the Salvation Army to relocate from the Booth Centre in the ByWard Market to a proposed $50-million, 350-bed facility on Montreal Road. The new facility would replace the Concorde Motel.

The proposed facility would include a shelter, a medical unit for homeless men run by Ottawa Inner City Health, residential programs, community and family services and a thrift store.

The Salvation Army argued that the city was in desperate need of more emergency shelter space and supportive housing.

In June 2019, Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury asked the new city council to reconsider the decision, but lost in a 12-10 vote.

The development proposal became one of the most contentious  planning files in the city, sparking protests by the community group SOS Vanier.

Lawyer Michael Polowin, who represented four businesses and the Wabano Centre, told the tribunal last January that it must consider the project’s impact on Vanier’s francophone and Indigenous communities.

Polowin argued that Montreal Road was the wrong place for the project because it would border a residential community and be located on a traditional main street.

According to the tribunal’s 100-page decision, released Friday, the Salvation Army’s proposal represented appropriate land-use planning.

“The only change required by the Tribunal is a minor amendment to the front yard parking requirements for the site,” said a memo from David White, solicitor for the City of Ottawa.

According to the tribunal’s decision, a range of concerns were raised throughout the public consultation process about “potential or perceived potential for increased rates of crime and other negative behaviour.”

The decision noted that these concerns could not be properly considered through the land-use planning process, but city council had taken steps to address the matter by other measures.

These included allowing for ample space from the public street to the main entrance of the facility to provide a buffer from the street “which will act as an open space for the clients without having to leave the site.”

The proposal also includes a “secure site perimeter” creating one formal access point for clients from Montreal Road.

“This will reduce the ability for unauthorized access onto the site as well as reduce the opportunity for clients to leave the site using informal pathways that empty out into the surrounding community.”

White’s memo also said city staff would review the decision and provide council with a more detailed summary in the coming days.