Video – Motion Put Forth to Potentially Make Consuming Illegal Drugs A Bylaw in Cobourg

In Editor Choice, Local

A motion put forth by Cobourg Mayor Lucas Cleveland making it prohibited to consume illegal drugs in a public place will be brought up at the next council meeting.

The motion was made at the Community Services, Protection, and Economic Development Standing Committee held on January 10, 2024 in Council Chambers of Victoria Hall.

Dr. Hilary Allen and Jeff Crowley gave a presentation to the committee that also included Chair Aaron Burchat, and Councillor Adam Bureau.

Bureau asked to amend the motion brought forward by Cleveland to add that an agreement be struck between Transition House, the Town of Cobourg as well as put forth a member of council on the Transition Board.  In Cleveland’s motion it stated the issue of town representatives look into making smoking illegal drugs a bylaw in public spaces.

The motion still needs to be formally ratified by Council at the January 31, 2024 Regular Meeting and states:

“THAT Council refer the petition from Dr. Hillary Allen & Mr. Jeff Crowley regarding 310 Division Street – An Opportunity for Community Integration to staff for a report back to Regular Council for comment on the proposed recommendations contained in the delegation; and

FURTHER THAT Council also direct Staff to include in the report back a review on the amendment of various Municipal By-laws that would enhance the ability to enforce nuisance related incidents on all municipal property, and to specifically include a provision on the prohibition of consuming illegal drugs in a public place and loitering in public places; and

FURTHER THAT Council direct Staff to reach out to the Transition Board to request that a Cobourg Council Member sit on the Transition Board of Directors as a Liaison Member with information on the request to be included in the Staff Report back to Regular Council.”

Speaking after the meeting Cleveland told Today’s Northumberland that Allen and Crowley who own Cosic – Cobourg Orthopaedic and Sports Injury Clinic directly across from 310 Division Street have “done a good job outlining the concerns of the community and doing so in a appropriate way.”

With both people having lived in the community for years and “difficulties” surrounding Transition House, “they are really good spokes people for what the community at large is looking for.”

In their presentation to the Committee, Allen and Crowley stated they are looking for an agreement with Northumberland County, Transition House and the Town of Cobourg on how 310 Division Street will be operated.

Allen and Crowley specifically referred to highlights of a agreement of Durham Region and the Municipality of Whitby to a new shelter taking place in their area that has some similar properties as the shelter on Division Street.

Some of the highlights of the Durham agreement are:

– Developed a code of conduct for shelter occupants inside the facility as well as, in the surrounding community, with consequences for not abiding by it.

– 24/7 onsite private security deemed necessary to operate the shelter

– Hired mobile private security patrols in the neighbourhood of the shelter day and night for enhanced security for residents and shelter occupants.

-A Community Liaison Committee (CLC) consisting of neighbouring residents, business owners, Town of Whitby, Durham Region staff, police, shelter staff and fire department officials was created to allow ongoing productive communication and to mitigate issues with stakeholders related to the shelter as they arise.

– Officials committed to enhanced garbage and drug paraphernalia removal at private residences, business and public spaces within a 500m – 1,000m radius around the shelter property on a continual basis.

– Whitby residents who are in need of sheltering services are a priority to be sheltered.

– The parties acknowledge that a low-barrier shelter space is not a “no barrier” shelter space. Living in a community with other people means following the enforceable principles of a code of conduct, by-laws, and laws that apply.

– A direct shelter phone number provided to allow timely communication with staff regarding immediate issues as they arise in the neighbourhood.

– Dedicated onsite smoking area of 9 meters away from entrances to mitigate loitering on sidewalk and neighbouring properties.

– Durham Region will construct a 10-foot fence around the property line of the shelter to provide privacy and security for neighbouring residents and shelter occupants.

– A commitment to capping emergency shelter beds at 45.

– Acceptable uses for the facility’s additional space in the future included supportive housing, legal counseling, administrative space, and classroom space.

– All future space uses will be discussed with the CLC and the Town of Whitby.

– A commitment for the Dundas shelter to NOT house a safe injection site.

Allen and Crowley also proposed The Optimal Community Integration of 310 Division Street Emergency Shelter would be as follows:

1. Community Liaison Committee established consisting of stakeholders to mitigate ongoing shelter concerns.

2. 24/7 onsite private security to patrol interior and exterior of 310 Division Street.

3. Dedicated onsite smoking/gathering area at back of property with a privacy fence 9 meters away from the back entrance to mitigate loitering at front entrance, sidewalk, and neighbouring properties.

4. A resident code of conduct established for inside, as well as, in the surrounding community, with known consequences for not abiding by it.

5. A commitment to capping all emergency beds at 35 for 310 Division Street.

6. Enhanced cleanup of residents’, public spaces and a business for drug paraphernalia and garbage by town/county within a 500 meter radius of 310 Division Street on an ongoing basis.

7. A commitment for 310 Division Street to not house a safe injection site.

8. Hired mobile private security patrols within 500 metrers of 310 Division Street, day and night for enhanced security for the community and shelter occupants.

9. Supportive housing, legal counseling, administrative space, and classroom space are agreed upon acceptable uses for future use of additional space at 310 Division Street.

10. Direct shelter phone number provided to allow timely communication with shelter staff regarding immediate issues as they arise in the nighbourhood.

11. Agreement by the county to maintain the interior and exterior of 310 Division Street in good repair, in keeping with the standard of county buildings and by-laws.

12. Privacy perforated window film applied to all windows to maintain resident’s privacy during the day and night, as well as, a consistent appearance for the exterior of the building.

13. Lighting study by police and acted on to ensure optimal safety for neighbours, shelter occupants, shelter staff, surrounding public spaces and businesses.

14. Cobourg residents in need of sheltering are priority to be sheltered at 310 Division.

15. An annual evaluation of the appropriateness of using 310 Division Street as an emergency shelter with Northumberland County, the Town of Cobourg and CLC.

16. Onside surveillance systems including CCTV cameras in appropriate interior common areas and the exterior of the building in accordance with regional standards.

17. 24/7 staff to resident ratios maintained to reflect agreed upon best practices.

18. Clearly defined roles of Transition House and Northumberland County with respect of management, decision making and communication.

Allen and Crowley also proposed additional considerations for 310 Division Street project related to town by-laws.

1. Parking – Is there adequate parking for staff and service providers?

2. Heritage – This building is beside and directly across from Heritage properties and should maintain a front facade that is clean and in keeping with the neighbouring properties.

3. Accessibility – This building is being marketed as “fully accessible.”

Are there plans for an accessible main entrance? Does it fall within the current guideline?

Have all staff been trained on current accessibility requirements?

4. Safety and Security – Have Cobourg Police conducted a safety study? Has a lighting study, camera/security study been done? The front entrance area is only 5.5 metres from the sidewalk and 7 meters from the road making it illegal to smoke onside at the front of the building. How will Transition House change the space to uphold provincial law? How will noise control and public nuisances by-laws be considered in this residential and commercial neighbourhood?

5. Traffic – Does the location being on a main roadway fit within the most current traffic study guidelines, especially with the daily strain of fire services, police, EMS requiring use of the main roadway to the downtown, beach etc.

6. Sanitation – This building should be maintained to the same standards of sanitation and maintenance as all other Northumberland County properties. Is the county responsible for proper garbage clean up and disposal or will this fall on by-law enforcement or town employees? Property standards and clean yard and lot maintenance by-laws should also be considered.

7. Building Safety – Has the Town of Cobourg been involved in the inspection process, including structural engineering given it’s previous structural issues, change of use, accessibility requirement and maintenance/renovations taking place?

Cleveland stated in no way does is the Town trying to tell the County how to run Social Services.

“We want to stay in our lane. The Cobourg Council and the Town of Cobourg are very well aware that we don’t know how to do Social Services.”

Cleveland said there is movement in the right direction with the County.

“We are seeing the County do with what we’ve been asking. Which is to provide a better service.”

With the counties purchase of 310 Division Street, the shelter is going to happen.

“Whether it’s a good thing or bad thing is going to be found out as we move forward.”

Cleveland said the town is looking for a “collaborative approach with the concerns of Cobourg and the residents surrounding 310 Division are heard. We’re looking for an agreement, that no matter the Council or the Board of Directors of Transition House, that we’re all on the same page as to whose responsibility is what.”

“What we’re trying to do is to protect the community interests of Cobourg.”

Cleveland said that 310 Division Street, “is taking four separate issues we have in Cobourg and putting them into one.”

Having the agreement between the county and the town, “is about having a clear understanding of the relationship about whose responsibilities are what.”

“We are two peas in a pod – we are both on the same team working for the benefit of our community.”

Cleveland added on to the motion to ask by-law what can and can’t be done and to make recommendations to council about potential changes to by-law to address changes including consuming illegal drugs in public.

Among that Cleveland asked about loitering by-laws.

If a by-law is enacted, Cleveland said he is well aware, “it may put our police in a very difficult predicament.”

“Our police officers have a very clear mandate and a very clear direction. They don’t get that from a municipal government.”

“Which is why this municipal government is looking for tools we can use at our disposal.”

Cleveland said he doesn’t expect police to enforce something that isn’t part of the Criminal Code.

“So what we are doing is staying in our lane. What we can do is enact Municipal By-Laws. So that’s what we’re exploring,” said Cleveland.

Adding he’s not sure where this will go, “this is simply the first step.”

(updated January 15, 2024 2:21 p.m.)

Pete Fisher
Author: Pete Fisher

Has been a photojournalist for over 30-years and have been honoured to win numerous awards for photography and writing over the years. Best selling author for the book Highway of Heroes - True Patriot Love

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