Opposition to North Van women’s rehab centre falls flat
North Vancouver is one step closer to reaching a decision on whether to allow a drug recovery house on district-owned park land.
The Turning Point Recovery Society last week presented its proposal and designs for a women’s nine-bed recovery house on a corner of Murdo Frazer Park at 2651 Lloyd Ave.
Their presentation was followed by a moderated roundtable talk that included residents and District of North Vancouver staff. And while the staff roundly endorse the recovery house plan, some area residents are still split on whether it’s the best use of park land.
In December, district council opted to hold an “alternative approval process” whereby at least 10 per cent of eligible district voters — about 6,000 people — would have to come out against the new use of the park land in order to block the rezoning motion.
According to district staff, opposition to the recovery house has fallen far short of that criteria, with only 180 people formally opposing the recovery house plan as of Tuesday.
And so, next month North Vancouver district council will give first reading to an amended zoning bylaw that will allow for a nine-bed voluntary recovery centre to be built and operated on the small central plot of Murdo Frazer Park.
“I’ve been driving this for six years,” District Coun. Doug MacKay-Dunn told The Outlook last week. “I wanted a detox and recovery centre on the North Shore and I don’t want to send people downtown to the Downtown Eastside for recovery. There’s just too much temptation down there.”
And while this recovery house won’t offer a detox facility, it will house residents in a zero-tolerance three- to five-month program for drug and alcohol recovery.
“They’re not court-mandated individuals. We don’t accept people with hardened criminal pasts,” Turning Point executive director Brenda Plant told The Outlook, dispelling rumours she’s heard from some opposed to the location.
For more than 30 years Turning Point has run similar recovery houses in Vancouver and Richmond, where they have 22 beds and 18 beds, respectively. In her experience as director, Plant said, recovery houses don’t bring trouble to neighbourhoods, but rather have the opposite effect.
“One of the things that came up is that there are drug dealers already in the neighbourhood,” she said. “But I think it’s important for people to know that when support recovery houses such as ours move into neighbourhoods, that kind of activity tends to dissipate over time because they have no vested interest in being around us because there’s no demand for the product.”
It’s a point on which MacKay-Dunn, a former cop in the Downtown Eastside, agreed.
“These folks are in recovery. They’re not using drugs and anyone who even goes near that place and looks suspicious, the cops are going to be called,” he said. “So actually, it’s going to enhance the security of the neighbourhood because currently the neighbours are complaining about drug activity going on in and around the park.”
Nearby, the Gloria Dei Lutheran Church has expressed support for the rehab centre, as has the Edgemont and Upper Capilano Community Association.
As for the actual house itself, Turning Point plans to construct a sage green building in the local heritage style similar to, and in the footprint of, a house that sat on the same site but was demolished by the district two years ago.
A public hearing on the North Vancouver women’s recovery house is tentatively planned for May 21.
“I get it, people have that fear of the unknown,” Plant added. “But we really encourage people to come see our existing sites.”