By Lethbridge Herald on January 8, 2024.
Steffanie Costigan – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
A stop order issued against Streets Alive by the City of Lethbridge has been overturned.
The Subdivision and Appeal Board issued the decision on Friday. The board hears appeals about decisions made on planning and development applications in the city.
In November 2023 Streets Alive was issued a stop order that would come into effect in August 2024 because it was allegedly operating outside the scope of its current permits in its efforts to aid vulnerable individuals.
In a report from the City of Lethbridge dated Friday, January 5, the appeal for the stop order for Streets Alive was successful.
The decision was made after the board reviewed all evidence and arguments put forth by the city’s development authority and Streets Alive.
“The appeal is allowed and the decision of the Development Authority is overturned. No additional permits are required by the appellant to continue their current operations. The stop order is revoked,” said the decision which was released by the Office the City Clerk.
The ruling stated that the board “found that the activities described in the stop order are in compliance with the Land Use Bylaw and that further development permits are not required as alleged by the Development Authority.”
Streets Alive operator Ken Kissick told the Herald Monday he believes the stop order was not applicable.
“Our contention was that based on the definition in the bylaws of religious assembly, which was worship activities, and supplementary was philanthropic and social activities, and all of those activities, which we’ve been doing for 20 years fit development services, that there has been an increase in the intensity, and therefore the reason for the change,” said Kissick.
Kissick explained upon the appeal and further review the board found that due to the growth of the city’s population and needs, Streets Alive was working within its rights.
“The appeal board determined that there was an increase in intensity, but that was simply part of the fact that the city grew. And of course with growth, there was more activity in the church, and the needs of the things that we do at the mission. And therefore, the intensity was well within reasonable grounds and the activities were philanthropic, were social, and they are secondary to religious assembly,” he said.
Kissick said when the stop order was issued, Streets Alive experienced unannounced visits from City planning and development staff investigating the operation.
“They did a significant review of our operations. They visited, they did unannounced visits, and City planning and development determined that there were some items that they felt no longer fit under the current permit. Those were the paramedics, which they felt belonged under a medical outreach or a medical out-clinic permit.”
Kissick said Streets Alive does have plans to move its operation from downtown to the northside, however that move won’t be happening for 12 to 18 months.
He described the process they went through to appeal the order and put forth their argument.
“Our contention was that all of those activities, since they were all provided for free, were either part of our worship or part of our philanthropic and social activities, which are included under the religious assemblies permit and the need for us. Now they came back with a stop order…We only had 21 days to appeal that decision. And so hence, we went up before the appeal board on the 21st of December.”
Kissick expressed gratitude for the great public support Streets Alive received. He said Streets Alive recognizes the frustrations of other businesses in the downtown community.
“We recognize that there is a frustration within the downtown business community with this (vulnerable) population. And this will allow us to hopefully begin working until we can move,” said Kissick.
He shared the relief Streets Alive feels now that the stop order has been revoked, noting the work they do is needed in the city.
“We’ve always been determined. I think what it does is it provides a sense of relief. On one hand, it also provides a sense, a sense that (with) certainly the democracy and process was great to see. And clearly, there is kind of a reinforcement that what we do is needed and needs to continue in its current manner.”
“We feel that we’ve been vindicated. And as such, we are relieved, and looking forward to simply continuing to do what we’ve done for the last 30 years, which is to bring hope to this population,” he said.
According to the decision, the City’s development authority stated several things were happening at the site including financial administration of funds for patrons, store-style clothing bank, provision of lockers for patrons’ daily storage needs, mail pickup for patrons, hygiene services including haircuts and washing and footcare and the regular attendance of mobile community paramedics.
Streets Alive in its appeal said clothing is provided free of charge and hair care is done by a volunteer “on an intermittent basis.” Foot care is provided one day a week and that paramedics are on site for as many as three hours per week.
“The question for the board is whether these activities are approved as part of the religious assembly use” of the site, said the decision.
“The board notes that the definition of this use includes ‘supplementary religious instruction, philanthropic and social activities.’ The development authority’s position was that these activities are not supplementary to the religious assembly use and that separate development permits would be required for these activities to continue.”
The decision stated that Streets Alive’s position was those activities are supplementary philanthropic and social activities which are part of the approves religious assembly use.
The board said it “is satisfied that these activities fall within the commonly understood meaning of philanthropic and social activities,” noted the decision.