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Fredericton city council votes in favour of rezoning for city's new jail

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Fredericton city council voted in favour of rezoning land for the construction of a new jail that will be built in the city's industrial park following an outcry from the Lincoln Heights neighbourhood.

"We heard loud and clear that their sense of security has been put into question, and we will be finding ways to make them feel more secure in that area,” Mayor Kate Rogers told CTV News.

“Yes, the vote was final and the development will proceed but how the development fits within that community and how the residents respond to that, that will be ongoing."

Only four councillors opposed the new correctional facility during Monday night's meeting.

"Over 1,200 people signed a petition against having a jail within the city limits,” said Kevin Darrah, Fredericton councillor for Lincoln Heights ward, who attended Monday's meeting.

“That transpired over the course of five weeks. Then city hall on Jan. 9 was bursting at the seams with citizens expressing their concern. Clearly they do not want it."

"In fact, the correctional facility, in my humble opinion, may result in more instances of crime,” said councillor Cassandra LeBlanc during the council meeting.  

“Deputy Minister Comeau informed us a few times throughout this process the average stay in this facility will be 30 to 33 days. If a member of our vulnerable community is given a stay in a correctional facility for that length of time, they will lose any housing they may have had and any employment they may have had."

Among the councillors voting in favour of the rezoning amendment was the deputy mayor, who said he'd prefer the jail be inside city limits so that Fredericton’s police force would be in charge rather than the RCMP.

"I do not think that they have the same ability to provide policing services in an appropriate way,” said Greg Ericson, Fredericton’s deputy mayor during the council meeting.

There are mixed opinions in the neighbourhood on the correctional facility.

"I do understand the need of a jail in the Fredericton area in general,” said Chris Roussell, a Lincoln Heights resident.

“From where they are located, they have to do lots of travelling and whatnot to get to and from the jail in Saint John or Moncton, and I just feel like I understand why the council made the decision. It's close to a highway."

Kris Austin, the minister of justice, said in a statement to CTV, “The facility will not be visible to neighbours and will be about 800 metres from the nearest house. It will also not be visible from a street. We have seen no evidence to suggest the facility will harm property values.”

Residents such as Bill Stewart are considering appealing to Susan Holt, the leader of the provincial Liberal party, to object to the new provincial jail.

"I'm not happy about it,” said Stewart, who lives in the Lincoln Heights neighbourhood.

“I don't feel the city fully looked into it and there's lots of other options for areas that's not so close to a residential area. I just think it's going to change the feel of the neighbourhood."

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