Barrie mayor, developer have frank discussion about safe consumption site

"We are still not prepared to invest further until satisfactory solutions are found," says HIP Developments President Scott Higgins

The waves created by city council’s 8-2 recorded vote decision early Tuesday to endorse a safe consumption site (SCS) at 11 Innisfil Street continue to ripple, but the president of Waterloo-based HIP Developments told Barrie 360 there was some progress made in talks with Mayor Jeff Lehman and city officials on Wednesday.

Location of proposed safe consumption site endorsed 8-2 by Barrie city council

“We had good and frank meeting this morning. Some progress was made. We’ll continue the conversation. Planning approvals will continue as we discuss the process around the SCS location selection and steps going forward. We are still not prepared to invest further until satisfactory solutions are found,” Scott Higgins said an email statement.

In a statement to Barrie 360 on Tuesday, Higgins said HIP did not believe 11 Innisfil Street was the correct location for the community, and he said they were not consulted by the city or proponent, which is the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU). Higgins added HIP would be reviewing all legal options available.

HIP’s project at the former Barrie Central Collegiate and Prince of Wales school includes 600 rental apartments in three buildings, including two 20-storey towers and a 10-storey structure, and a new YMCA. The properties include a portion of 125 Dunlop Street and 34-50 Bradford Street.

Mayor Jeff Lehman said his conversation with Higgins was frank and productive.

“He remains concerned about the impact of the proposed SCS on their development plans and the site selection progress to date,” Lehman said in an email statement to Barrie 360. “However, we agreed to work together from here forward to mitigate the any potential impacts of the SCS on the development, should the Province of Ontario approve the site. The site plan for the HIP development will be moving forward by city council by the end of June, and we committed to working on specific site plan issues related to the potential SCS.”

The mayor added that in their letter on Monday, HIP indicated that “they are very sensitive to this serious crisis facing many cities in Ontario presently and we understand that help is needed for those with addiction issues.”

“My hope is that we can work together from here to support the SMDHU and the CMHA, the proponents, in ensuring their security and management plans ensure impacts on the neighbours are addressed, should the province approve the SCS at this location,” Lehman added.

Health officials said there were 133 confirmed and probable opioid-related deaths in Simcoe Muskoka in 2020, with 47 confirmed and probable deaths in Barrie from January-September 2020, two times the 2019 rate for that period.

The SCS allows individuals to use pre-obtained drugs under the supervision of health-care professionals.

Endorsement from city council is not the end of the story. The applicants must send an application to the federal government for an exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to the province seeking funding approval for an SCS.

The Ontario government currently funds 16 safe consumption sites across the province and is committed to allowing five more. A decision on the Barrie application could take six months after it has been submitted.