The CEO of a charity that hopes to build an addictions recovery centre in St. John’s hopes it can reach an agreement with the city.
As reported by The Telegram on Wednesday, the city’s planning committee voted to reject an application from Teen Challenge Canada for a women’s addiction recovery centre for 24 people on Fowler’s Road, on the grounds that doing the necessary upgrades for the little-used road would cost more than a million dollars.
Teen Challenge CEO Dan Murray told The Telegram on Friday that he feels the charity is “trapped in a bureaucratic Bermuda triangle.”
“We were encouraged well over a year ago — almost two years ago now, I guess — to hire a consultant and go through the process,” he said. “So that’s what we did, and consulted the community and everything else.”
Two previous attempts to locate a centre in more densely populated areas — where no roadwork would need to be done — were scuttled by opposition from future neighbours, said Murray. In this case, Teen Challenge has the support of the handful of nearby residents, said Murray, but now the project is being held up because of upgrading.
Murray also said the city’s upgrading requirements are “overkill.”
“I have to believe that there is more of a longer term or another issue that’s guiding the discussion, probably having to do with future plans for development in the area,” he said.
“As it stands now, a minor little upgrade to that road — just to, basically, to smooth out the gravel, raise a couple of sections — is all that would be needed to service it. The road has serviced a summer camp with a couple hundred kids for several years.”
Teen Challenge has had people staying on the property — the former Circle Square Ranch children’s camp — since the faith-based charity took it over, and haven’t had any problems with access, said Murray.
While the organization — which currently operates five addictions recovery centres for men and one for women — has offered $250,000 towards the cost of the roadwork, expecting the charity to shoulder the entire bill is too much, he said.
“It’s beyond our capability,” he said. “We’re not a wealthy developer putting in a multi-unit condo complex. It’s a small, little residential facility that’s quietly tucked away there. So a million-dollar road that we would have to build is obviously completely out of reach, and if that’s the absolute requirement, we can’t do it.”
An approval in principle by the committee could have helped fundraising, said Murray, but it’s hard to attract the larger donations that would be necessary for a project that doesn’t have support from the city. The planning committee also suggested Teen Choice ask the province to chip in, since health care is a provincial responsibility, but Murray fears the city’s rejection will hurt their case.
“In the city manager’s own language, it’s ‘a million-dollar road to nowhere,’” he said. “What I find ironic is it’s their road. We’re not the ones asking for the million-dollar road.”
He’s still hopeful that the problem can be worked out.
“There must be a common-sense, middle-road solution that can be found with some creativity here,” he said.