The city’s planning committee approved the Salvation Army’s controversial proposal to build a large institutional shelter in Vanier Friday, after a three-day-long meeting, but it may be just the first round in the contentious debate.
Shortly after 9 p.m. on Friday night, the committee voted 6-3 to approve the application. It will now go before city council on Wednesday.
The vote left many in the community upset and frustrated, both with the outcome and with the process, which largely refused to consider the social impact that a large shelter would have on Vanier.
Others, however, are looking ahead to continue advocating for the community.
“People are going to have to decide, do they want to go down the road of legal remedies,” said lawyer Michael Polowin on Sunday. Polowin spoke several times at the committee on behalf of several businesses in Vanier. “We’re still hopeful that council will make the correct decision on Wednesday. If that doesn’t happen, then those that I represent now or later, will have decisions to make.”
Drew Dobson, head of the group SOS Vanier, said that he is "99 per cent sure that if we lose at council that we'll be appealing to the (Ontario Municipal Board)."
He said that while the committee vote was a disappointment for the community, that "everyone's spirits have picked up.
"The community, the'yre not down. They got right back up," he said.
Dobson is currently organizing members of SOS Vanier to be in the gallery during the council vote to show support.
"If they're going to vote to do this to Vanier, they're going to at least have to look us in the eye while they do it."
Polowin, who represents Dobson's business, has not officially started working on an OMB appeal, but appears to have it on his horizons. “Have I thought about what the line would be? Clearly, yes,” he said, having described a number of legal angles to appeal the decision. “Has anyone retained me at this point to go to the board? No.”
City officials, too, seem to be bracing for a protracted debate that will likely land them before the OMB.
“The OMB hearing, if it takes place, will be fascinating,” wrote Coun. Jeff Leiper in a statement posted after the decision. Leiper was one of three councillors, including Tobi Nussbaum and Riley Brockington, who voted against city’s staff’s recommendation that the committee approve the plan.
“The majority of planning committee chose to accept the placing of very narrow parameters on their decision making. That’s not how we will build a more equitable city, a more prosperous city, or a more sustainable city.”
– This story originally appeared in Metro News.