After stickhandling a proposed recovery house through a lengthy approval process in the District of North Vancouver, Councillor Doug MacKay-Dunn hopes the facility will become a template for other jurisdictions.
"This is a model that can be replicated across the province," Mr. MacKay-Dunn said on Thursday. "It costs the city or municipality essentially nothing. And it provides a level of service that has not been provided in the past and it is being managed by an NGO [non-governmental organization], not by a tax-funded agency."
Under the proposal, the District of North Vancouver will lease a site to Vancouver-based Turning Point Society, which will build and operate a nine-bed women's recovery centre on the property.
The province is also involved, through providing a loan that will allow Turning Point to build the centre.
The site is on the north end of Lloyd Avenue on the edge of Murdo Frazer Park. Some area residents objected to the facility because it would require rezoning what had been park land for development.
Proponents, however, said the site had been previously developed – a home that once stood there was demolished in 2010 – and was already connected to city services.
The rezoning process began in 2011 and included an "alternative approval process" for a bylaw to remove the land from park status. Under that process, opponents would have had to gather signatures of at least 10 per cent of eligible voters, or several thousand people, to block the bylaw. By the January deadline, only 176 voters had sent in opposing responses, clearing the way for council to proceed with the bylaw. The rezoning received final approval at a council meeting on June 10.
Mr. MacKay-Dunn, a former police officer who has championed the facility, says he was encouraged by support from residents who agreed that such a service was required in the neighbourhood.
Some residents said they were not opposed to the idea of a treatment centre, but to the precedent of removing land from a park. Mr. MacKay-Dunn, however, calls the site a "brownfield" property that was not going to be developed for any other purpose, and suggests other municipalities have sites that might be suitable for recovery facilities.
Turning Point currently operates one facility in Vancouver and two in Richmond.
The group is also part of a consortium developing a planned, 130-bed affordable housing project in Richmond. That project, announced last year, involves Turning Point and five other non-profit agencies along with the provincial and city governments. Richmond has agreed to lease a city-owned site at a nominal rate to the non-profit groups, which will operate the facility. The province is expected to help pay for construction, but final details – including how much the province will contribute – are still being negotiated.
Richmond, which backed the project as part of its affordable housing strategy, has said the facility should be complete by the spring of 2015.