22 Wann Rd. will be on its way to becoming a group home for up to 10 youth if city council approves a recommendation city staff put forward Monday evening.
Pat Ross is the city’s manager of land and building services.
He brought forward the recommendation that council approve the Yukon government’s conditional use application to permit the group home to operate out of the property.
The government is looking to buy the large home – listed at $1.1 million – from the current owners with the city’s conditional use approval a condition of the sale.
Supportive housing – in this case as a home for older youth in government care transitioning to independent living – is permitted only as a conditional use for the Country Residential 2 (RC2)-zoned property.
A public hearing held last Monday saw some delegates express support for the conditional use.
Others voiced concerns over what they viewed as a lack of consultation by the Yukon government. They also cited issues over safety, the proximity to liquor sales, whether the water and sewer system can handle an influx of residents, possible noise issues and more.
At last night’s meeting, Mickey Kenyon, who with her husband, Jim, lives next-door to the property, addressed council, taking issue with the suggestion of opposition to the proposal.
She voiced her support for a letter sent to the city by Jeff Marynowski, the president of the Porter Creek Community Association.
Marynowski argued that what was deemed as opposition by city administration was actually concern over the Yukon government’s lack of consultation with residents.
It seems the territory will only be speaking to residents after the plans move forward, Kenyon said.
“This is our neighbourhood,” Kenyon said.
She pointed out that many people have lived there for many years – and are planning to be there for a lot more.
In the report to council, Ross went through the concerns one by one. In an initial summary of them, he stated:
“The public input included concerns regarding the possible behaviour of youth in the proposed residential facility.
“Family and Children’s Services (a Yukon government branch) is responsible for continued socialization and transition programming for the youth in their program.
“The applicant has indicated that the facility will have three full-time on-site staff available to address any behavioural issues that may arise and beyond this need, the RCMP are on call where necessary.”
Ross then went on to note the proposal meets all the standards required under city regulations along with pointing to the city’s Official Community Plan and zoning bylaw.
“The city’s Official Community Plan has an objective for ‘equitable housing,’ supporting the integration of government funded housing in existing neighbourhoods,” Ross said.
“The zoning bylaw likewise has included supportive housing in many residential zones recognizing that these uses are providing homes in neighbourhoods in order to have equitable access to services, amenities and green space.
“The recommended condition to limit the number of youth at the home reflects what was applied for in the conditional use application.”
Speaking to the issue of communication with the public, it was pointed out that Yukon government staff made note of letters sent to residents about the proposal.
The city followed its obligations in notifying residents and hosting an input session on the conditional use application.
It also addresses the possibility of crime, stating: “Youth are capable of committing crimes in any neighbourhood whether residing within a group home or not.
“Crimes are committed throughout the city. There is no reason to exclude the Porter Creek neighbourhood when considering the placement of a youth group home versus any other neighbourhood.”
As for liquor sales, it’s pointed out the residence would house youth who are 18 and under, and being a resident of a group home does nothing to alter their ability to access alcohol.
“The presence of on-site 24-hour supervision by facility staff who are trained to deal with and support youths of this age will act to curtail any possible illegal acquisition of liquor,” the report states.
It’s been confirmed by an environmental health officer with the Yukon government’s environmental health services branch that the existing septic field would be adequate for the proposed use, with 10 youth and three staff members.
Under questioning by Coun. Dan Boyd, Ross later told council the city could look at having a third party also assess the septic field.
Ross noted the matter was studied a number of years ago when four bedrooms were added for a bed and breakfast.
On the issue of noise, it was pointed out the city’s noise bylaw prohibits noise that unreasonably interferes with others.
Any issues or complaints would be dealt with through the city’s bylaw department or the RCMP, if the complaint is made after hours.
The proposal would also meet all requirements for off-street parking.
As well, it addresses concerns around the density of the neighbourhood, noting city policies promote “densification in existing residential neighbourhoods to enable a compact growth strategy and the efficient use of municipal infrastructure.”
Ross responded to one comment that the group home would constitute a non-residential use in a residential area.
He pointed out that the current zoning allows for supportive housing as a conditional use, and that the home would be a residence to the youth who live there.
“This residence will be the full-time home for these youths and is more appropriate and effective when placed in a residential neighbourhood rather than a commercial or industrial area,” Ross noted.
“Youth require access to amenities typically found in residential neighbourhoods, such as parks, schools and transit services, etc.
“The size of this home and property is significant and well-equipped to accommodate the 10 residents being proposed.”
Council discussed the issue following Ross’ presentation.
Boyd questioned whether the city could request more consultation by the Yukon government on the proposal.
However, as other council members commented, that could be viewed as interference by another government.
That’s not something the city would want from another government either, more than one councillor commented.
Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu said while she sympathizes with nearby residents on their concerns over consultation, she doesn’t believe it’s realistic to ask the Yukon government for consultation.
The need for such a group home was also highlighted by multiple members of council.
Coun. Roslyn Woodcock noted her home in the southern downtown neighbourhood is within a couple of blocks of four supportive housing sites.
“And I do not see more crime in my neighbourhood, and I’ve lived there for 17 years, than any other neighbourhood in this community so those concerns are problematic for me because I don’t think they’re grounded in reality,” she said.
Coun. Betty Irwin was quick to state her agreement with Woodcock.
She argued it seems the benefits to the community are being lost to a “picky little discussion” over consultation.
Council will vote on the conditional use application next week.
Coun. Samson Hartland was absent from last night’s meeting.