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Permit denied for Boyle Street's overdose prevention site in south Edmonton

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Boyle Street Community Services (BSCS) has been denied a permit to build an overdose prevention site in south Edmonton.

The facility would have been located in the Ritchie neighbourhood.

In a 126-page decision issued on Wednesday, the Edmonton Subdivision and Development Appeal Board said a permit was denied because BSCS did not consult the city's heritage planner about changing the building's facade.

It also failed to include a safety report in its application.

Unless a fulsome safety plan is provided, BSCS won't be able to apply for a new permit at the site for a year.

This is the second time a permit for the project has been denied. 

Rob Bligh is a member of the group Scona Concerned Citizens and an appellant on the appeal to the city.

The group gathered more than 2,500 signatures opposing the centre.

"We're very pleased that the Development Appeal Board ruled to revoke Boyle Street's development permit," he said.

Bligh says he's opposed to the proposed location of the site.

"When you look at the number of people that live within 500 metres of the proposed site, it is a very densely populated neighbourhood. And people that use an overdose prevention site are consuming fentanyl and meth, and they can't totally be in control when they leave the site," he said.

"To introduce them into a neighbourhood with everything from daycares to senior citizens to apartments, it just really doesn't make sense."

He's hoping the decision will lead BSCS officials to choose a new site.

"I think it needs to be an area that's not densely populated with people that live and work. It needs to be located in an area close to rehabilitation services that the province is putting in place. And that way, people that need help can get the full service that they need."

Petra Schulz also spoke at the permit hearing.

The Ritchie resident is also the co-founder of Moms Stop the Harm, and supports the overdose prevention site.

"I opened my email, and I started to cry. I cried for the people who have died, for the people who will die," she told CTV News Edmonton on Thursday.

"It's difficult to see the life of a person weighed against property values."

Schulz, who was attending an event to remember the homeless people who have died in Edmonton, says the centre is desperately needed.

"I shop, I worship just near where the site is going to be, and I see the despair. I see the people on the street. We know the numbers of people who are dying in that neighbourhood, and how badly that service is needed," she said.

"What is so upsetting is that services like this are blamed for what is a greater structural problem. You have a housing issue in Edmonton, you have a huge housing issue. But by shutting down a health service, you don't create housing, you do the opposite."

BSCS says the decision is frustrating.

"This decision denies essential services for those we serve. The critical support that Overdose Prevention Sites provide is needed now more than ever," Elliot Tanti of BSCS wrote in an email to CTV News Edmonton on Wednesday.

"As we move forward, we will take the necessary time to consult with legal counsel and deliberate on our next steps. Our commitment to exploring all possible avenues remains unwavering, ensuring that this essential service is available in our community."

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jeremy Thompson and Miriam Valdes-Carletti