Common sense and the city’s zoning bylaws


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Kristie Morgan is discovering her dream of bettering the lives of adults with developmental handicaps has run afoul of the city’s zoning bylaws and her bid for a zoning amendment will be front and centre at Monday’s meeting of council.

Morgan operates what is referred to as an “adult day nursery” at 24 Elizabeth St., which runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Its a residential setting — known as Time For You 2 — where adults with special needs are catered to through a variety of activities that teach life and social skills while providing a much-needed respite for the families of these individuals.

The adult nursery is unique in St. Thomas, however the city would rather Morgan move her operation to an area zoned as industrial or commercial.

As she notes, these are extremely vulnerable individuals and it would seem to make sense a residential neighbourhood would provide a more nurturing setting. After all, there are many group homes, independent living homes and the like already situated in residential areas across the city.

A St. Thomas paratransit bus stops in front of 24 Elizabeth St. In this case, the vehicle was there for no more than two minutes.

A St. Thomas paratransit bus stops in front of 24 Elizabeth St. In this case, the vehicle was there for no more than two minutes.

Morgan is surprisingly diplomatic when she talks about her dealings with the city and the latest encounter over the official plan, which confirms her subject property is zoned residential.

The official plan for St. Thomas indicates typical permitted uses would include schools, churches, child care centres and “facilities providing day care for infants and children or adults with special needs.”

The latter would require an amendment to the zoning bylaw.

Here’s where it gets into hair splitting. Also permitted are churches, day nurseries and private schools. Under city bylaws, a day nursery is limited to the use of children with a developmental handicap under the age of 18.

Since those at Time For You 2 are over 18 years of age, an amendment to the zoning bylaw is required.

But is this really about zoning amendments or is it NIMBYism on the part of some residents of Elizabeth St?

Susan Buro-Hamm is acutely familiar with Time For You 2 — it’s a second home for her 20-year-old daughter Lexi.

“Here we have a program that is a Godsend to parents in St. Thomas,” Susan advises. “There is nothing else. We are a population that is aging that doesn’t have solutions for our children.

“There are neighbours who have complained about the paratransit bus being parked and letting someone off. In reality, seniors use that bus as well. It’s a reality of everyday life.”

Susan continues, “Lexi has just graduated from high school and there is nothing else for her. She would fall into cracks because she has a developmental disability and she has epilepsy and metabolic disease.

“She needs to be busy and active in her community. She needs to feel a part of it. And Kristie does that. She does incredible things.”

Playing the what-if game, what would Susan and Lexi do without a facility like Time For You 2? It’s a tough question and the raw emotion in Susan’s voice is amplified as she fights back tears.

“She would have to be at home, and there’s no way she can be here. As much as I love her and want her in my home, I can’t explain it. We struggle some times. It’s like parents who abandon their children. It’s not evil. We are so burnt out. I have nothing else. But I don’t want to do that.

“My daughter has no voice, I’m her voice.”

Are city staff and members of council listening?

A SPARK OF HOPE

Quite the emotional photo gracing the front page of Friday’s Times-Journal documenting the homecoming that awaited injured Rodney firefighter Arrie Turner.

The volunteer firefighter was responding to a call back in January when he was involved in a crash on a morning when road and weather conditions were atrocious.

After six months of treatment at London’s Parkwood Hospital, Arrie returned home to family and friends this week.

The brotherhood of firefighters will again be evident this afternoon in London where as many as two dozen of them will gather at Victoria Hospital to bring a little cheer into the life of Kevin James, a volunteer with the Southwold Fire Department for a dozen years at both Shedden and Talbotville stations.

He is dealing with job-related cancer and he’s confronting a situation tougher than any blaze he has had to battle over his 21-year career, which includes nine years at Brownsville station in southwest Oxford.

His fellow firefighters in Southwold plan to drive his pumper up to the hospital around 1 p.m. as a tribute and with the hope the moral support and one glistening fire truck — the envy of many a young child — can spark a miracle.

Thanks to fellow Southwold volunteer Brian Fife for the heads up on this life moment.

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO . . .

The major chain motel/hotel that was being touted as a natural fit on vacant land just to the west of the Timken Centre? It was alluded to at the opening ceremonies for the twin-pad facility and you would think in the ensuing 10 years, a shovel would have gone in the ground.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“The hospital truly values the community’s opinions and feedback and they use it to help them grow. And that’s good feedback, but even more importantly, the bad stuff.”

New St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital board of governors chairman Melanie Taylor, who sees the hospital as a leader in the province on many fronts.

City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to ian.mccallum@sunmedia.ca.

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3 thoughts on “Common sense and the city’s zoning bylaws

  1. Thank you so perfectly starting the public conversation on the zoning issues. I have been heartbroken for months about this as our son, Aidan, attends Kristie’s program. Both Susan and I would be happy to share our presentations to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Developmental Services, presented in January 2014. These submissions are not about our city problems, but rather the much bigger issues surrounding lack of services for our young adults.
    Thank you again for this City Scope.
    Sincerely
    Diane White

  2. As the parent of a young man (25 years) with severe disabilities, I can tell you that this bylaw the way it currently reads is highly discriminatory. People with disabilities of all ages belong in neighbourhood communities, NOT in industrial zones. The current ON Minister of Municipal Affairs, Ted McMeekin, is the same government official who announced the significant injection of funds for adults with developmental disabilities in the province. He would be very interested to know in his new portfolio how some municipalities will respond to the rights of adults with disabilities to live a good life within their home communities.

  3. I took a moment to look at that house on Elizabeth Street. I did not actually go there personally due to the terror of seeing a para-transit bus. I looked at it on Google Street View instead. I figured that would be safer. What I saw was shocking. Terrifying beyond belief. No wonder the other residents in the area are up in arms. What I saw looked exactly like a house. A house, just like any other house in the neighbourhood or anywhere else in St. Thomas.

    It looked no different than any of the other mental health group homes that are located around the city. Oh Wait. That’s not true. A few of the mental health group homes in residential areas actually look definitely institutional in design. The zoning says and “facilities providing day care for infants and children or ‘ADULTS’ with special needs.” Are not these people ADULTS with special needs? Isn’t an ADULT by definition someone over age 18?

    And that para-transit bus actually stopping? How would the neighbours feel if that horrible bus stopped to pickup a resident on their street who was blind, a post stroke victim, an amputee, or even possibly in a wheel chair post surgery or injury? Clearly those kind have no business on Elizabeth Street either. Every time I see a para-transit bus I run and hide in the bushes because they have larger doors than a regular bus.

    What is wrong with these people?

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