Officials at Portage, a teen drug rehab centre, are relieved to hear that Beaconsfield has opted to defer a decision to grant a demolition permit to Batshaw Youth and Family Centres, which aims to tear down an aging Elm Ave. building and replace it with a new $50-million open-custody facility for troubled kids.
Portage has been using the existing Batshaw-owned facility on the Elm Ave. since 2001, housing up to 32 teens in their substance abuse recovery program.
Beaconsfield had been expected to deal with Batshaw’s demolition permit request and subsequent appeals during its meeting on Monday, April 22. However, the city issued a statement Friday that the matter is being deferred to a future council meeting. In March, the city’s demolition advisory committee had recommended approval of Batshaw’s permit request but that matter needs to be ratified by a council vote.
Councillor Rhonda Massad told The Gazette that council didn’t get around to dealing with the permit issue during a caucus meeting on Thursday and decided to defer the item for another month.
Council has broached the possibility of allowing Batshaw to build two units on the sprawling property this summer but allow Portage to keep operating from the existing building until some time next year so it could find a new locale.
Portage officials are concerned that once the permit is granted, Batshaw would have 90 days to carry out the demolition, giving them little time to vacate the existing facility since they have to find a new premises to relocate to, said spokeswoman Seychelle Harding, adding Portage had filed an appeal to the city last week.
“Our goal is to ensure treatment continues through out the whole process because we have 25 people living there (right now),” she said. “We need sufficient to find a suitable location within the region.”
Sylvain Harvey, Portage’s director of properties and material, said the non-profit has been looking for sometime to find a new suitable locale but has yet to find finalize a deal. He added since Portage serves anglophones and works in partnership with the Lester B. Pearson School Board, it is looking for a site in Beaconsfield or elsewhere in the West Island. Teens entering the residential rehab program stay up to a maximum of six months.
Aside from searching for a suitable location or building, Portage will likely need some time to complete required renovations, adding it had carried out various works at its current centre on Elm Ave., Harvey said.
“We’re looking at between two years and three,” he added.
As for Portage’s appeal to the demolition request, Harvey said they don’t oppose Batshaw’s long-term plans but are looking to preserve their rights to continue using the Elm Ave. facility until they can relocate.
An alternative site in Beaconsfield is currently being considered by Portage but negotiations continue, he said.
“We are facing a lot of difficulties looking for a site and we are trying to take one at a time,” he added. “You know if the site is not institutional, then you have to go for a zoning change and that’s not always the easiest way to go.”
Portage is funded by private donations as well as through some provincial funding, Harvey said, adding Quebec will likely invest in renovations for a new facility.
In December, Batshaw announced it plans to run open custody units to house up to 108 troubled teens at a proposed $50-million facility on Elm Ave. in Beaconsfield. It requested demolition and building permits but did not require a zoning change since the sprawling property is already tagged for institutional use.
Batshaw is seeking to build two of the nine units this August which would be part of the proposed $50-million facility.
Batshaw’s long-term plans are to run nine open-custody units in Beaconsfield and four closed-custody units at its Dawson Ave. campus in Dorval.