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Sapperton residents vow to keep up fight against EFry proposal

Lower Sapperton will continue to fight the Elizabeth Fry Society’s plans to erect a second building next to its current facility despite a decision by city council on Monday.

Council approved the society’s application to amend the Official Community Plan for two lots on Sherbrooke Street behind EFry’s facility at 402 East Columbia.

The switch from low-density residential to institutional puts the society a step closer to approval for a four-storey, 21,000 square foot building to house 10 units of affordable housing, a 37-space day care and the society’s offices.

The society, however, has to basically go through the whole process all over again by applying to actually rezone the properties.

Neighbourhood opposition organizer Catherine Cartwright, while admitting it’s likely council will not change its mind, vowed they will continue to be there every step of the way.

Cartwright said she collected opposition support from 95 per cent of residents in the immediate area. They claim the rezoning will disrupt the residential flavour of the area.

“The whole neighbourhood is disappointed. Except for [Coun. Betty McIntosh] they should all be ashamed of themselves,” said a fuming Cartwright on Wednesday.

McIntosh was the only one of four councillors to vote against the amendment. Cartwright accused Coun. Lorrie Williams of being ‘gutless’ for abstaining from the vote. Williams claimed she was in conflict of interest because she lives a block away from the proposed project.

“She would not step up for her neighbourhood and wouldn’t let anybody to know it,” Cartwright said.

Williams said she was prepared to vote on the issue but during a break a city lawyer told her she was in conflict and if she voted it could nullify the proceedings.

“I have guts but I didn’t want to prolong the procedure,” said Williams.

“I won’t say how I would have voted, I was leaning toward supporting them, but I had my sheet that I had written the pros and cons. Twice in the past I have changed my mind in the public hearing based on the valid points raised by both sides. I’m afraid Ms. Cartwright is just unhappy with the decision and she’s just lashing out, which is too bad.”

Cartwright said since the issue was first raised two years ago, city council and staff have had many opportunities for compromise, or to show leadership and vision, but haven’t.

She said there are other ways EFry and the city could meet EFry’s needs and still protect the neighbourhood such as by doing a land swap, or converting the old home on one of the lots to four non-market housing units.

“People can’t believe the lack of vision, the lack of creativity, the lack of leadership, not just from council, but the staff,” she said.

Cartwright said while many EFry supporters told heart-wrenching stories, they weren’t addressing the OCP amendment application, and while she didn’t want to diminish their stories they weren’t what the public hearing was about.

“It was just so disheartening,” said Cartwright.

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