New women’s centre closer to reality

A new four-storey building to house the Women’s Rural Resource Centre of Strathroy is one step closer to being a reality after a unique institutional zoning was unanimously passed by council Oct. 17.

The current facilities on Beech Street near McKellar Street would be torn down to make way for one that provides more privacy to women and children in crisis seeking counselling, support, emergency shelter and transitional housing.

When completed, up to nine families could stay. Office space in the single building would be for staff supporting those families and providing outreach programs. There would also be a rear patio and play area.

The special zoning was needed to demand fewer parking spaces and less frontage facing the street. There would be nine parking spaces for the families and 10 for staff.

The office space is also a way to avoid needing less bedroom space, according to the Centre. There was a council question at the Sept. 6 public meeting on accommodating any future need for growth. The Centre responded by saying there would be more ability to get to people before they reach the crisis state.

Another question from council was what would happen to the Centre and its clients while construction was happening. The Centre said it was looking at securing a local hotel for its base of operations during this time.

One thing that threatened to delay construction was a noise study request from CN Rail to gauge the impact of its rail line through town.

“Why would there need to be an entire study for a facility already in place, just expanding?” asked Mayor Joanne Vanderheyden at the Oct. 17 meeting.

Senior planner Tim Williams said CN did not get back to him when he raised this point, so he does not believe a study will actually be needed.

“There are a number of houses between this and the rail line so the level of review is expected to be less rather than more,” said Williams.

There were no public comments, though the Centre is working with neighbours in the residential neighbourhood on ensuring privacy for them by looking at fencing and landscaping, according to Williams.

Executive director Corey Allison told council in September that the Centre has been in the community for 30 years and now serves 250 families per year.

Chris Gareau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Middlesex Banner