The controversial Salvation Army compound on Montreal Road in Vanier cleared another hurdle on Friday when Ottawa’s planning committee approved the site plan.
The plan for the residential care facility and emergency shelter has been before the city for five years. It has been the subject of much criticism, including an appeal to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, which was dismissed.
The design presented to the planning committee on Friday includes an H-shaped complex with a four-story west wing, lowered from the original six stories, and a three-story east wing. The two wings would be connected by a common two-storey space.
The complex will have 211 beds, against 350 initially proposed. Of these, 32 beds would be in supportive housing and 99 would be shelter beds. A proposed addictions program was eliminated from the plan.
Despite the changes, the majority of public delegations present at Friday’s meeting denounced the plan.
“We still don’t know what’s going to happen in this space,” said Nathalie Carrier, general manager of ZAC Vanier.
“The Vanier community has always debated that there should be housing and not shelters. Shelters should be the exception to the rule,” she said.
Carrier believes the Salvation Army is duplicating services already offered in the community, a view shared by other service providers who spoke at Friday’s meeting.
Carrier, who participated in the process as a stakeholder, accused the Salvation Army of having no real interest in working with the community.
In response to an interview request from Radio-Canada, the Salvation Army said it was not ready to comment.
Marc Maracle, executive director of Gignul Non-Profit Housing Corporation, echoed some of Carrier’s concerns.
“The Indigenous community and the Indigenous Coalition of Ottawa have been very clear from the start and maintained our concern about the scope and scale of the proposed facility and how it fits into the community of Vanier,” he said.
“We also take the position that programming informs design, so what’s going to happen in that building is going to shape the spatial configuration and ultimately how it’s expressed as design on the street.”
Some in favor
Some delegations spoke in favor of the project.
“The site design and plan were heavily influenced by the voices of the customers we serve, including our Indigenous customers,” said Wendy Muckle, CEO of Ottawa Inner City Health, which will provide services at the site.
“I would also suggest to you that of all the voices you’re going to listen to today, perhaps the voices of the people who actually need to access and use the facility should be the most important.”
The plan does not require further board approval. City staff will now oversee any future changes to the plan.
Com. Mathieu Fleury, who is not running for re-election, said he would continue to fight the project by working with higher levels of government to block funding for what he called “outdated shelter models”.