Area residents voiced concerns with the location of a sober living home in the Lakeshore Drive region.
Bonnyville town council declined a recovery house’s application for a space in the community, which would have seen recovering addicts living in a residential area on the east side of town.
The application came from Residents in Recovery, a Lloydminster-based recovery home, who hoped to expand their services of sober living to the Lakeland in a house along Lakeshore Drive.
The decision to deny the application came as a result of zoning concerns from municipal officials and an outcry from residents who would be living nearby.
Over 20 letters were sent in from residents who described how the recovery home could make the neighbourhood less safe for children and could lead to a rise in crime, as a couple dozen showed up to Tuesday’s council meeting.
Residents in Recovery executive director, Tyler Lorenz, said it’s unfortunate town council refused the application since the need is there.
“It’s just not the right time for something like this for Bonnyville,” said Lorenz. “But hopefully down the road things might change and the idea of having a Residents in Recovery home there will be possible.”
With that said, Lorenz said he doesn’t have plans to reapply in Bonnyville and is exploring other communities in the Lakeland to expand.
Town staff’s recommendation was that the proposed development would not be characteristic of R1 – Single Family Residential zoning, due to the increase in density in the long term of the project.
The project would be more suitable for a medium to high-density property location, town notes said.
“The staff recommendation was for something with a higher density. In other words, where there are more people in a higher density unit. So say for example, if we look at others in the area that we’ve done, we’ve done rezonings and things like that, so they’re near and closer to more populated areas,” said Mayor Gene Sobolewski on The Morning After.
“This being so close to a park, it was a very sensitive issue and the area residents who would be directly impacted or felt that were impacted, came out with a definitive, not necessarily not my backyard, but they basically said this is not the appropriate area.”
During the meeting, council allowed Lorenz and residents in the area to speak before a decision was made.
While residents spoke about fears that an individual relapsing could have and the safety of the community, a former client who went through Residents in Recovery said the program saved his life.
Councillor Chad Colbourne said he knew where these people looking for a recovery centre come from.
“I have a hard time with this one. These folks aren’t as bad as you think they are. They are people trying to get their next step in life,” he said.
“I know where these guys come from. I’ve been there. I asked Tyler about the Harris House. I sit in front of you today as someone who sat in that Harris House. Somebody who’s sat in a rehab facility.
“It’s hard sitting here as a leader in this community, listening to some of your letters without some of the information in front of you. This isn’t a halfway house. This is a recovery house. You talk about theft, theft is going to happen regardless if these people are in this community or not.”
One concerned property owner who called themselves “strongly opposed,” said they were concerned about the kids and seniors living in the area.
“As is we have increased traffic and break-ins our area and with the proposed development and the increase of traffic and transient people that are going to be living in our area, we strongly believe we open our neighbourhood up to [an] increased transient people, increase in vandalism–with the Splash Park and Lakeshore walking trail and park will be like living in an industrial area,” they said.
Devin Dudley, a Lloydminster resident who went through a Residents in Recovery home, called the decision a lost opportunity.
“Tyler Lorenz saved my life — I learned a new way of life,” said Dudley. “This community [Bonnyville] would benefit from this.”
Residents in Recovery, which started in 2018, focuses on providing aid to those struggling with addiction and mental health issues through sober living and daily outreach programs.
While there won’t be a location in Bonnyville in the immediate future, Lorenz made it clear that residents in need of addiction counselling were welcome in Lloydminster so long as there was space available.
“Right now, we have a lot of demand right in Lloydminster for Lloyd residents, but if there are openings and beds available, we’ll take Bonnyville people.”
With files Chris Lapointe.