THUNDER BAY – A planned transitional housing project on Junot Avenue is set to go ahead, after an appeal against a city zoning decision to allow the facility was dismissed.
The project, which will be located between the EMS station and Boys & Girls Club building on Junot, would accommodate up to 58 people. It’s intended to support Indigenous youth struggling with addiction, and will provide education and employment services as well as accommodation. Some community members voiced strong objections to the facility, while many community groups and other residents rallied to its defense over the summer.
City council only narrowly approved a zoning by-law amendment to allow the facility to go ahead in October, on a 7-5 vote. The amendment added “Residence and Community Resource Centre” as an acceptable use for the subject property.
Red River Holdings, which owns rental properties in the general vicinity, appealed the city’s decision to Ontario’s Local Planning Appeal Tribunal in November. A planner representing the company argued Thunder Bay has sufficient land available that is already appropriately zoned, saying the city should have sought land at one of those sites. He also argued the housing facility’s size and institutional nature make it incompatible with a residential area.
But planners with the City of Thunder Bay and Ontario Aboriginal Housing Support Services (OAHS) maintained the facility is comparable to some of the larger residential buildings already in the area, including apartment buildings.
The tribunal dismissed Red River Holdings’ appeal, finding the city’s zoning amendment “represents good planning and is in the public interest.”
“The building is comparable in scale to other multiple-unit residential buildings in the area and non-residential buildings on the same block,” the tribunal noted in its decision.
"The Tribunal's Order is consistent with both provincial law and municipal bylaws and also affirms the decision made by City Council," said Justin Marchand, Executive Director of the OAHS, in a statement.
Construction on the facility was originally intended to begin by May. However, Marchand said the current COVID-19 pandemic may impact timelines.
"Our next step is design consultations with Youth and Community," he said. "We eagerly look forward to continuing to work with Youth and the Community on this much-needed development."