Guelph city council’s approval of transitional housing project could be appealed

The building at 65 Delhi St. in Guelph. Matt Carty / Global Guelph

Despite getting unanimous approval from Guelph city council, a transitional housing project for the homeless next to Guelph General Hospital is still not a slam dunk.

Wellington County is purchasing the two-storey building at 65 Delhi St. from the city as they are in charge of providing programs to help the homeless in Guelph.

Read more: Guelph staff recommend Delhi Street building be turned into transitional housing

Their plan is to convert it into 28 bedrooms for the homeless who can live there for up to three years and receive around the clock support while finding a permanent home.

The original plan called for 36 units, but the project was scaled back to allow for more amenities such as meeting rooms and kitchenettes. There was also a point where the building could have been used as a daycare or emergency shelter, however that was scrapped as well.

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During a meeting on Monday, council approved zoning amendments to allow the purchase to go through.

But there has been pushback from neighbours, specifically the Delhi Eramosa Neighbourhood Advocates group, who have hinted that they could possibly appeal council’s decision to the Ontario Land Tribunal.

During the meeting, Mayor Cam Guthrie said he received a letter from a lawyer retained by the group which asks council to hold off on their decision to allow for more dialogue to address issues about the project.

Guthrie said the letter states that the law office is also prepared to file an appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal.

“Is that a threat to us?” Guthrie asked Steven Kilburn who was speaking on behalf of the neighbourhood group.

Kilburn said it was not a threat but an attempt to get council’s attention when it comes to their concerns.

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The group wants to see the project become a reality but Kilburn said they are feeling ignored by the county.

One of their main issues is lowering the capacity to no more than 18 bedrooms given the size of the building.

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“We are hoping with that letter, we would catch council’s attention enough that council might weigh the possibilities on this and find a way to have more dialogue,” Kilburn said.

During the meeting, the county’s director of housing said they are still willing to sit down with the neighbourhood groups to hash out any issues.

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Robert Eilers, who owns the building next door at 55 Delhi St and was once homeless himself, said he is in favour of the project, but only if it is done right.

Eilers said trying to get a dialogue going with the county has been frustrating.

“I am trying here and I don’t know how many different people I have reached out with to try and get the conversation and been rebuffed,” he said.

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Eilers said he’s still undecided about supporting an appeal if there is one and likened it to an atomic bomb.

“You got to be very, very careful before you press that button and make sure you have exhausted every single avenue before taking the so-called nuclear option,” he said.

Read more: Millions in funding available to support affordable housing in Waterloo Region

Guthrie said the appeal process could halt the transitional project for over a year. He urged the group to not appeal council’s decision.

“Instead, you work with the county and we work forward to helping 28 individuals that desperately need a place to call home,” he said.

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