Salvation Army shelter appeal to begin today

A tribunal that tackles appeals of municipal planning decisions will begin hearing arguments today about a controversial shelter project planned for Vanier's main commercial strip.

In November 2017, Ottawa city council approved the Salvation Army's proposal for a 350-bed facility at 333 Montreal Rd., replacing a motel at the site.

The facility was initially intended to include a 140-bed emergency shelter, an emergency medical clinic and space for other programming aimed at vulnerable clients.

Critics argued the model was wrong and should focus on housing people permanently.

A handful of Vanier business owners decided to appeal council's decision to what's now known as the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) in an attempt to prevent the shelter from going ahead.

Location a major issue

Michael Polowin, the lawyer representing that group, said there are a number of issues the tribunal will have to consider — but a major one will be whether Montreal Road is the right place.

"Does a shelter belong on a traditional main street in light of city policy, and does it belong on Montreal Road in particular?" Polowin told CBC News on the weekend.

"Mixed into that is going to be, does Vanier already bear more than its share of the responsibility and burden of providing needed social services in this city?"

Salvation Army

Last June, the Salvation Army said it was open to taking a second look at the scope of the shelter project, potentially reducing the number of emergency beds to as few as 70 while also adding supportive housing and keeping its addictions treatment centre in the ByWard Market.

That same month, council narrowly rejected Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury's bid to have the project halted.

The Salvation Army said in an email to Radio-Canada the project would be a catalyst for the redevelopment of the area and looks forward to working with the community as it works to meet a wide range of needs.

The LPAT hearing is slated to get underway at 10 a.m. at Ottawa City Hall. It could last three weeks, Polowin said.

The city's legal team declined to comment ahead of the hearing.