Victoria council followed up a sometimes heated public hearing Thursday night by voting 5-3 to approve a three-year temporary use permit for the former Tally Ho Motel at 3020 Douglas St.
The facility will be managed by the Victoria Cool Aid Society, which had proposed 52 units of transitional housing, with 24/7 staffing by trained resident support workers, access to health care and counselling for residents, and regular patrols around the exterior of the buildings.
In granting a narrow approval and after much wringing of hands, council made it clear that Cool Aid must undertake planning and design for the facility with input from the Burnside Gorge Community Association, residents and other area stakeholders, and fully adhere to the new Burnside Gorge local area plan.
During the public hearing, residents and merchants in the area voiced concerns over the concentration of supportive and transitional housing facilities in their neighbourhood and spoke of finding needles, drugs, vandalism and being forced to clean up the bodily fluids of others.
“Our neighbourhood is exhausted and terrified,” said Vicki Jackson, a Gorge Road resident and former chair of the Burnside Gorge Community Association land-use committee.
She said the neighbourhood has in some ways been proud to host multiple residences for people without the same advantages in life as others, but she added, “We’re compassionate, we’re hopeful and we’re full – and we’re exhausted.”
All councillors indicated they heard the neighbours’ concerns about weariness.
Coun. Pam Madoff noted that the Rock Bay Landing experiment has not worked out as well as first anticipated by Cool Aid when it opened in 2010, and has coloured neighbours’ views of such transitional housing facilities.
Another suggested that residents from the soon-to-close Choices transitional shelter in View Royal, who tend to be more stable, may take up some of the spaces at the Tally Ho.
The permit also includes a condition requiring Cool Aid to provide contractual obligations to mitigate community impacts from the facility. No opening date has been established.