Fredericton — Zoning changes that would allow for more people to stay in a downtown rooming house were denied by city council on Monday night. Instead, an alternate zoning change was approved, one that city council says “might not be the zoning amendment that Fredericton’s homeless population needs, but it’s the only zoning change they’re going to get.”
In April, hippie-activist Keith Young requested an amendment that would have allowed 12 homeless bums to squat in his rooming house at 244 and 246 Charlotte Street, an increase of four hapless souls, as the current zoning bylaw allows for only eight losers.
At Monday night’s council meeting, only one misguided councillor voted against the proposed amendment. However, city staff were quick to point out that there was a one-vote margin of error.
“I think it’s a question of, is it appropriate for wealthy residents in the area to have to see these scumbags?” said Coun. John MacDermid. “My god, think about it, they might have to walk right by them! Would you feel safe in your neighbourhood knowing that formerly homeless people were living across the street from you? Somehow, it takes a bit of the comfort away from being under your own roof, sleeping in your warm, soft bed, with 1,000 thread-count sheets.”
Brenda Campbell, affluent Charlotte Street resident and president of the local NIMBY (Not-In-My-Back-Yard) association, praised the move.
“Homeless people need a return to their roots. They’re called ‘homeless’ for a reason; giving them a home — especially half a block away from mine — just doesn’t make sense,” she explained. “In addition to being a lawyer, I’m also a landlord, owning more than three-dozen properties in the city. I’m all for affording housing… for example, if one of my tenants recommends a friend to live in their building, and they pass the credit check, they get $25 off their rent for one month.
“People don’t fully appreciate how much those minuscule discounts cut into my profit margins, but that’s the sacrifice I need to make to offer affordable housing.”
After the results of the vote were announced, council then quickly and unanimously voted on a zoning change that would increase the number of homeless people who are allowed to sleep on the street and beneath overpasses (preferably not by the river, because that’s too pretty a view to spoil) from zero to unlimited.
“There’s no doubt that there is a need for rooming houses,” said MacDermid, “but how do we find out exactly how big that need is? Sure, the homeless shelters are full, pretty much every night of the year, but much like cockroaches, it seems like there are always more of those poor suckers. This new rezoning of our streets and overpasses will, for the first time ever, allow us to get a solid head-count.”
However, not everyone is happy about the new zoning regulations.
“While there’s no money for me in rooming houses, and it’s scary to have them close to me…” said downtown resident Linda Jacobson, “these zoning changes make me worry that there could be more panhandlers on our streets. If they’re sleeping in a corner I can at least ignore them, but to hell with them if they ask for spare change!
“Beneath overpasses is fine,” she went on, “as long as it’s not below the Westmorland Street Bridge by the river trail! I like to jog through there, or at least I would, if I jogged. You know, why can’t they just go live in the woods? Unless it’s in a provincial park or on Crown land or something… I don’t want my tax dollars maintaining that kind of unseemly habitat.”