City council approved an amended License Bylaw on Monday which requires service providers to apply for a license to operate mobile supervised consumption services.
Council had passed first reading for a license bylaw amendment related to mobile consumption services during a special meeting earlier this month.
Supervised consumption services provide a place where people can use controlled substances in a monitored hygienic environment.
“There continues to be polarity in the community regarding supervised consumption services on principle,” said Mayor Tara Veer. “But the point that council made is that the provincial government through its agencies is pursuing it, so City council’s decision-making completely is confined to land use and to licensing because we have a responsibility to accommodate what the federal and provincial governments have stipulated,” she said, adding that health services delivery is within the provincial government’s decision-making jurisdiction.
“In the likelihood that a federal exemption is applied for locally in the future, the City has a responsibility to be prepared through both land use and licensing in response to federal and provincial government policy.”
Last December, council dealt with the land use aspect of supervised consumption services and on Monday evening dealt with the licensing requirements.
Council also specified locations for mobile services which include the hospital and Safe Harbour.
Erin Stuart, inspections and licensing manager for the City, said that it’s a challenging topic and conversation overall for both administration and for council to consider.
“Council did address those concerns,” she said. “There were a number of letters that were submitted to them that formed part of the agenda, and what (happened) was that we had done a mail-out to all landowners within 100 metres of five sites that had been identified as potential locations.
“Ultimately, each of those locations were voted on separately and council did land on two of them for a mobile services unit.”
Other locations up for discussion included the P9 Parking Lot (4618 50th Ave.), Bettensons Parking Lot (4310, 4320, 4322 & 4348 52nd Ave.) and the Old Parks Building (4934 54th Ave.)
“(It’s also about) balancing the concerns of the public and trying to mitigate some of those concerns with the ability to impose things like terms and conditions on the license as well as limiting it to the one license at this time so that we can go back in six months to report on how that’s working once a unit is in operation,” she said.
When a potential service provider submits to operate a mobile unit, the applicant is also required to notify property owners and occupants located within 100m of the proposed site prior to acceptance of any application.
As the City pointed out, this allows citizens an opportunity to influence the terms and conditions of the license to operate.
The amended bylaw does not assume the introduction of mobile supervised consumption services in Red Deer; it does however, ensure there are definitions and regulations as to what, how and where this type of business operates.
Veer added that when the community is divided over this issue on principle, the City encourages them to make their views known to the local MLAs and to the minister of health.
“City council’s role and authority really are in terms of location.
“Council, throughout the debate and through the process over the past year, has really endeavoured to balance the needs of the vulnerable who are in need of the services and the safety needs of the community in general who (may) be expressing concerns over potential impact.
“I think council has done the best that we can in terms of trying to balance out the competing interests and views that the community has; trying to find reasonable options that are in the broader best interests of everyone in our community.”