The Airdrie Subdivision and Development Appeal Board convened yesterday evening (September 20) to hear the concerns of numerous citizens in regard to the Development Authority’s decision to approve a permit application for supportive housing limited in the community of Big Springs. At least a dozen individuals submitted their appeals in writing to the city, with some taking the opportunity to speak at the hearing. 

The bulk of the concerns of those who live adjacent to or in the vicinity of the proposed supportive housing unit, located at 15 Springs Crescent SE, claimed that they believed the applicant who submitted the original development permit proposal, was already operating at the address, which has led to residents being frustrated with increased vehicle traffic, noise and nuisances, as well as worries that property values will be impacted. The question of safety and security of the neighbourhood was also on the mind of many at the hearing. 

Crystal Jackon, a planner at the city of Airdrie who presented at the hearing, said that the applicant, Ever Bright Complex Needs Support Services' official development permit application was submitted to the planning and development team on July 24, 2022. By August 3, planning review feedback was shared with the applicant. The application was officially approved on August 4. However, Jackson noted that four separate adjacent landowners submitted appeals, with multiple appellants attached to each appeal. At present, it was noted that the home is operating as a foster home. 

Ever Bright Complex Needs Support Services, which already operates in Airdrie in other areas, describes itself as providing programs that are, "designed to provide 24-hour staffed living accommodations support to individuals who have been identified as having complex needs which include posing a significant risk, engage in harmful behaviours against themselves, others or property, require intensive services and have a history of mental health challenges." Among its list of programs, it offers youth and adult support programs, youth and adult residential programs, transitional years programs, and emergency residential support programs. 

According to Jackson, the applicant intends to have two individuals living in the home with two support staff on-site to support the individuals during the day and night. All Ever Bright residential homes in Airdrie support people with developmental disabilities and mental illness with different diagnoses. This may also support children where family homes are unsafe.  

She also noted that Airdrie has a deficit of housing types serving vulnerable people in the community and that over 2000 affordable homes are required to meet the current needs of residents struggling to afford shelter and Airdrie.  

"From a housing perspective. Airdrie needs more homes like the one being proposed at 15 Springs Crescent SE, to help individuals who have complex needs.  Airdrie has no homeless shelters and shelters in the Calgary area are at capacity," Jackson said. 

However, residents who came before the hearing board, including resident Bryan Miske, who lives a few houses down, said that the constant coming and going of cars in and around the street has been worrying. 

"There's a lot of traffic [and] it certainly seems to us that it's operating as a business. They don't use the garage, so as far as parking goes, they don't park in the garage and they do block a lot of spots," Miske said.  

He added that while there seems to have been an attempt to park vehicles so they do not obstruct other houses or cars, this has only been a recent development since residents submitted their appeals. Miske also expressed frustration at the fact that the front lawn is not being kept up and that he ended up cutting the grass for the residents and there have been no attempts to upkeep lawn maintenance.  

Resident Serguei Efremenko echoed the concerns of his neighbour, underlining that it isn't business and what they do that he has concerns about, it is how the business came into the community. He echoed the statements of Airdrie's city planner, saying that if indeed the land use bylaw regulates how a development permit must maintain consistency with the existing residential character of the neighbourhood, then in his view this is not being adhered to.  

"I spend 10 hours every day at work. When I come home, there's a car in front of my house, with strangers sitting inside it and watching my house. I worry what's going to happen to my house?" 

Bright Adelegan, the CEO/Executive Director of Ever Bright Complex Needs Support Services, tried to quell concerns by explaining that for the time being, one of the reasons that there is a high degree of vehicular traffic is that, the owner of the home was in the midst of basement renovations, which were unrelated to Ever Bright's permit. He said that because the foster home is currently under the guise of the provincial government, various organizations that are meant to help the youths living in the house will be coming and going. Adelegan said that if and when Ever Bright would step in and start operating, there would be a reduction in traffic. 

"In this appeal, the people I spoke with, they asked me to open the door for them to speak with the kids and I did," he said. "But I [do] see this discrimination [with respect to] disability sectors. and I've vowed in my life to stand up for those people." 

However, resident Shaun Welter, who also submitted an appeal and spoke at the hearing, detailed his worries, saying that the loud screaming of a child prompted him to call the police one evening. He said that police have been called multiple times in response to residents' complaints. However, the RCMP could not independently confirm or deny this, as information pertaining to police responding to private homes is not made public. Welter also pointed out that he feels Ever Bright is not being fulsome in how it presents itself to the community. According to Welter's written appeal, wording from Ever Bright's website was changed. 

"In August 2022, before the appeals from the neighbours were entered, Ever Bright Complex Needs Support Services website had a section that was titled 'Youth and Adult offenders programming'. As of September 12, 2022, this title has been adjusted to read 'Youth and Adult Support program'," Welter wrote in his appeal.  

Adelegan, in his rebuttal, stated that it is within the purview of a business to change a website's wording as they see fit. He explained, that regardless if Ever Bright takes over the care of the children in the home, the youths will remain in the home.  

For her part, Crystal Jackson underlined that Airdrie's land use bylaw defined supportive housing limited as a type of accommodation integrated with other residential land uses in a neighbourhood context and providing onsite professional care and supervision. This use definition can include group homes and congregate care facilities. 

"This use does not include an institution such as extended medical care, treatment centers, or detention and correction facilities. Supportive Housing Limited is not intended to be a shelter, drop-in, halfway house or any other type of short-term or temporary accommodation. The use is meant to maintain at its core, its ultimate purpose being that of residential in nature," she said. 

The Airdrie Subdivision and Development Appeal Board will now have three options with regard to 15 Springs Crescent SE. The board can deny the appeal and uphold the decision of the development officer for approval, the board can grant the appeal and refuse the development permit or the board can table the appeal and request further information from the administration. 

Councillor Candice Kolson, who chairs the Airdrie Subdivision and Development Appeal Board, said the board would provide a written decision within 15 days.  

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