In a bid to clear the air, Grand Forks city council has released a timeline of the purchasing history of four lots on 70th Avenue, that at one point were destined to be used by BC Housing for a supportive housing complex. The release comes after neighbours to the now-rejected project speculated that the city purchased the lots with the intention of offering them to the Crown corporation. The in-camera minutes, dating back to Feb. 11, disprove that theory.
Feb. 11, 2019: The minutes show that council instructed staff to look into buying four lots on 70th Avenue, across from Dick Bartlett Park. At a meeting two weeks later, the minutes indicate that council wanted to go ahead with the purchase of the land, citing “West End strategic development opportunities.
Mar. 25, 2019: Coun. Rod Zielinski moved “That Council instruct staff to offer the properties to BC Housing for temporary construction access for the 19th Street project.” In that same meeting, council discussed using one of the lots for the Whispers of Hope community kitchen, currently slated to open on 5th Street this summer. Coun. Zielinski ended the meeting by moving “that Council offer the recently acquired four lots on 70th Avenue as a land swap to BC Housing […]”. Mayor Brian Taylor was the only member of council to oppose the motion.
Apr. 15, 2019: By this time, some neighbours to the 70th Avenue lots were aware that the city was discussing offering the four lots to BC Housing for a supportive housing facility. The city had also costed servicing the lots at approximately $485,000. However, the minutes also indicate that the “[Downtown Business Association] seems to be accepting and reasonable at the time towards the development at 2nd Street,” the project’s original intended location.
May 10, 2019: the City of Grand Forks an BC Housing approve a letter of intent regarding the Crown corporation’s plans to go ahead with the supportive housing project at 70th Avenue. Coun. Neil Krog was the only councillor to oppose signing the letter.
June 11, 2019: After neighbours to the project at 70th Avenue advocated for council to refuse rezoning the four lots to accommodate BC Housing’s high-density facility, council voted unanimously in residents’ favour, effectively stopping BC Housing from proceeding at 70th Avenue.
BC Housing still owns the property at 2nd Street and Central Avenue and could move forward with the supportive housing project there. However, city density bylaws also currently prohibit high-occupancy buildings in that zone. City staff noted in June though that the bylaw also renders several other existing suites and apartments downtown illegal and has been on council’s radar for at least three years to change as part of updates listed within the city’s Official Community Plan.