Garden District group monitors needle exchange site selection

gdra.article—José Gonzalez

The slightly stuffy basement of the Metropolitan United Church was hardly a deterrent for the 20 to 30 residents of the Garden District who arrived to participate in their monthly meeting covering community subjects from new housing developments to the location of a proposed drug injection site.

The meeting began with board of directors president William Colvin describing a recent increase in the local population and the desire to attract a few more businesses to the neighbourhood. He floated the idea of a task force focused on expansion, with an eye towards starting a business improvement association.

Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam then took the floor to describe many of the upcoming development projects surrounding the area, in particular highlighting the many safeguards to help protect the interests of existing residents. She touted stiff fines for construction companies violating noise laws, an increase from $100+ to $1000+ in fines, possibly $10,000+ factoring in court costs, and she mentioned a minimum of 10% of space being dedicated to affordable housing with no special exceptions, a first for the city.

The councillor also mentioned improvements to the overall condition of Gerrard St. and water main upgrades for the neighbourhood.

Financial administrator Glen Simourd went over the association’s budget, describing a generous surplus over the last year’s operations which he described later as “an all time high” after expenses. This is an all-time high in funds for the association, and they’re currently looking for dedicated partners who have ideas to improve the neighbourhood.

Police constables Julie Rice and Scott Hodgson spoke about recent efforts to encourage individuals who litter or deface property to clean or repair the damage personally, rather than using ticketing or making visits to the police station. Results have so far been encouraging with as many as 40 individuals taking part in a group clean-up earlier that day.

Vice president Julie Harland-Bettany spoke on revitalization projects along North George St. She described a delay possibly pushing it back to 2017, and that renders and information are available for residents to examine on their website.

Finally, board member Joseph Green expressed some concern over the planned injection site at 277 Victoria St., namely the lack of transparency from the Department of Health, and the lack of input sought from residents on the decision. The 277 Victoria St. location may be more familiar as the corner of Yonge-Dundas Square, and currently serves as the site for The Works needle exchange program.

Councillor Wong-Tam was adamant that this was not simply a case of “Not-In-My-Backyard” rhetoric, and Green agreed that it was a desire to see the facility relocated a block or two away from one of the city’s major tourist attractions. One proposed location was the nearby St. Michael’s Hospital, two blocks south on Victoria St., which is currently being renovated to include an additional 36 beds for treating individuals with substance abuse problems. A hurdle to that is that the currently proposed injection site would not have the same health card requirements of a hospital.

After the discussion concluded, a brief election was held, preceded by board member Maria Pede stepping down due to personal issues. Two new members, Henry Hong and Nick Pezzo, were nominated to fill Pede’s vacancy and existing one. The three remaining members Colvin, Harland-Bettany, and Green, retained their position in a bloodless election.

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  9. In Jose Gonzoles’ story on the GDRA AGM, his final sentence read: “The three remaining members Colvin, Harland-Bettany, and Maria Pede, retained their position in a bloodless election.”

    Maria Pede chose not to run again and Joe Green was the third remaining member.

    It should have read; “The three remaining members Colvin, Harland-Bettany, and Green retained their position in a bloodless election.”

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