Beaconsfield council unanimously passes demolition permit for Batshaw

Beaconsfield council unanimously passes demolition permit for Batshaw

‘I can’t sleep tonight if I put these kids on the street,’ Councilor Massad on citizen’s appeal

By Matthew Guité

Batshaw Youth and Family Centres will be allowed to build a new facility in Beaconsfield without shortly tearing down their current one, following a unanimous but controversial decision by Beaconsfield at a special  city council meeting, Monday night, that had some citizens furiously decrying the move.

While many residents showed up to the meeting to challenge the issue of allowing Batshaw to continue to keep their Elm Ave. location open during construction, John Barry was the only citizen to launch an appeal. During the allotted question period, no residents stood to make themselves heard, but instead some tried to have their say during the appeals process, at which point they were asked to return to their seats.

The facility is currently being used by Portage, a drug-rehabilitation facility for teenagers, which, following the motion passed Monday, can remain open until December 31, 2014, while Batshaw constructs a new, $50 million facility on the site. Portage originally also had an appeal on the agenda, but that was pulled after a 30-minute recess, during which Portage parlayed with Batshaw’s lawyers and came to an agreement.

Barry’s appeal was not against the construction of the new facility, he said, but rather against the council’s decision to exempt Batshaw from the city bylaw that would normally force them to demolish their older facility within three months of the demolition permit being granted.

“Personally, I have no objections to issuing them this permit, but we do have bylaws in this city,” he said. “Bylaws can be buried, but I would expect they would only be buried for a good reason. It seems to me that this is a very significant project, perhaps the biggest ever in Beaconsfield, but the demolition approval that I saw was very open-ended.”

Beaconsfield Mayor David Pollock pointed out that the motion set to be voted on that night allowed the facility to remain open only until December 31, 2014, but Barry expressed concern that such a deadline could and, in his opinion, would be extended to a later date.

Councillor Karin Essen, responding to Barry’s comments about demolishing the old Batshaw facility, said that Portage and Batshaw were both providing valuable services to Beaconsfield and did not deserve the reaction they were getting from some of those in attendance.

“Let’s put things in perspective a little bit,” she said. “This isn’t a prison, and the citizenry are in support of it in general because they know the facts and the facts are that these are children that need help.”

Essen also pointed out that a previous project a few years ago to build a West Island cancer centre with help from tax city councilpayer money was received very differently, and suggested that the only reason some residents were against the Batshaw construction was because the residents would be troubled youth.

“Just because children are suffering in a different way, doesn’t mean that we need to kick them to the curb,” Essen said. “These are children of Beaconsfield, among others, that need to be served in this community, and the parents of children in Beaconsfield who don’t want to lose the service they have.”

An issue that Barry’s appeal did not touch on was picked up by Councillor Rhonda Massad, who said that she could not, in good conscience, allow the Elm Ave. facility to be closed without any place for the children housed at Portage to go, as there is as yet no other facility ready to accept them.

“I can’t sleep tonight if I put these kids on the street,” Massad said. “The bylaw says we have a little bit of leeway, we’re taking it.”

The votes to grant Batshaw the demolition permit, and to allow it to operate at Elm Ave. until Dec 14, 2013, both passed unanimously.

Batshaw Youth and Family Centres aims to preserve as much woodland as possible at the 108-bed residence it wants to build in Beaconsfield for troubled youth.

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