Bill Morrison knows where to find many of his Highland Park neighbours: in Strathmore. Or Calgary’s burbs.
After a methadone clinic opened, and traffic increased, families left this community at McKnight and Centre streets for other parts.
Bowing to community pressure, the methadone clinic closed. But now Highland Park faces a drug addictions centre to be built on an old lumber yard.
There are homes nearby; residents are worried about safety. “We want to be a place where people want to raise families, kids can walk to school,” says Morrison, a 39-year resident. He heads the Highland Park planning committee. It’s already an area with a lot of industrial businesses, taxis, bus centres.
Fresh Start Addictions Centre came to Morrison and his group, along with the Greenview before breaking ground.
Would they face protest?
Instead, the two groups began to hammer out the city’s first “Good Neighbour Agreement.” After watching Scarboro demolish plans for a halfway house (and propel John Mar to alderman), the city knew it needed to get community support.
In the end, the community ensured that no detox would take place on site, that there would be underground parking, and there would be an outdoor patio for residents to gather. The number of clients was set, as was the hours of operation.
“It did lead to communication. There was a positive element to it,” says Morrison. Highland’s contract is on the city’s website. There’s only one omission. The city doesn’t sign the agreement or help with enforcement. “The city is party to this and did impose this land use, it should sign the agreement,” Morrison argues.
A few miles west in Triwood, Tom Banks found himself in a maelstrom after McMan Youth & Family Services bought an apartment building for “youth at risk.” Banks is the community president and residents were fearful.
Once again, the city stepped in with a Good Neighbour Agreement facilitator. The two sides agreed no resident would be evicted, and that any McMan residents would have jobs or be in school. It would not be a treatment facility. Triwood agreed to give the young adults free community memberships.
And the lack of city signature?
“These agreements may not be legally binding, but they carry a lot of political weight,” says Banks.
And in Highland Park, there’s a second Good Neighbour negotiation. It’s with the landlord of the methadone clinic.