March 24th, 2019

Bylaw change would affect safe consumption

By Gillian Slade on January 10, 2019.

NEWS PHOTO GILLIAN SLADE
Coun. Brian Varga and Coun. Darren Hirsch talk with Kent Snyder, general manager for planning and development, after a committee meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019 regarding a land-use bylaw amendment to establish a regulatory framework for a supervised consumption site.


gslade@medicinehatnews.com
@MHNGillianSlade

A land-use bylaw amendment with potential to affect the location of a future supervised consumption site has been sent to council by the municipal planning commission.

A proposed amendment to Bylaw No. 31 would add a supervised consumption definition that would make the public aware of a development proposal.

“Right now we don’t have a formal definition for these sites. We look at what the next closest use is and so we don’t have a formal development process for how we consider them as a health facility right now,” said Kent Snyder, general manager of planning and development.

“By defining them and saying that they need a permit, which is what this does, kicks it into a formal review and approval process where we have the ability to add conditions to grant approval or not grant approval if it is not the right location because of potential negative impacts.”

This requirement also publishes the request for the public to be made aware and provide possible input, said Snyder.

“The intention today is to have an arena for people who have concerns to voice them appropriately,” said Coun. Darren Hirsch.

Instead of using informal choices for voicing those concerns, this would fall into the category of any other development application within the city, said Hirsch.

Snyder said he could not reveal whether an application for a development permit has been issued for safe consumption. Current applications would not be affected by any change to this bylaw, only applications received after council passes the bylaw amendment will be impacted.

The amendment would also give the public an opportunity to appeal a decision on a development application but the federal and provincial governments can over ride that, said Coun. Brian Varga, who chaired the meeting.

“We are kind of in a hard spot. We are trying to help prevent some of it down the road but in the end it might not matter what we put into our bylaws,” said Varga.

Last year HIV Community Link, Calgary received $900,000 in startup funding from Alberta Health to establish a site in Medicine Hat and will receive about $1.9 million annually for operating costs.

An assessment determined the best place to establish a site would be in the downtown or N. Railway area where those expected to use the facility generally frequent.

A building was under consideration for supervised consumption on Maple Avenue but the owners ultimately declined to lease to the organization as a result of negative public feedback. HIV Community Link has said it is still working on plans for Medicine Hat and will make an announcement soon.

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