Council levels zoning infraction at warming centre

Council levels zoning infraction at warming centre

Coun. Zielinski: ‘If we don’t uphold our own laws, we’re on a very slippery slope going forward’

Grand Forks council may have revealed a release valve for the pressure the city has seen with regards to the warming centre at 7500 Donaldson Drive, after Coun. Rod Zielinski suggested that the city’s bylaws do not permit overnighting in the “light industrial” zone where the property sits.

What began as an extreme weather shelter last winter, added Coun. Christine Thompson, has morphed into a full shelter with lease extensions that have allowed it to operate months past its 100-day operation period as a 24/7 facility for people experiencing homelessness.

“There is no use other than a ‘watchman’s quarters’ [that permits] overnight accommodation,” Zielinski remarked to council Monday night. He then put forward a motion that council instruct city staff to enforce the bylaw at 7500 Donaldson Drive.

“If we don’t uphold our own laws,” said Zielinski, “we’re on a very slippery slope going forward.”

Mayor Brian Taylor was the only member of council to vote against the motion.

As of press time, a city official said that staff have yet to confirm Zielinski’s interpretation of the bylaw, but will analyze it and then determine how to proceed. The first step, the official said, could be to notify the landlord of the bylaw infractions and ask them to correct the situation. However, Jim Kennedy, a representative for the building’s owner and cannabis store company Weeds Glass & Gifts, said earlier Monday that if the city does not issue a variance to its bylaw governing the distance between cannabis stores and community spaces, then the warming centre could be allowed to stay on the property.

“That building will be either put up for sale or leased, depending on what scenario it is that comes forward,” he said.

“We can also expect that, if we do not get the variance, the warming centre will actually have a place to stay for as long as they need to until they do find another location,” Kennedy told council Monday.

The statement was interpreted as a threat by those present who neither wanted a cannabis store nor the warming centre in the spaces. Kennedy insisted that it was a matter of business. Currently, Whispers of Hope Benevolence Society pays $1,800 per month in rent. Without that money, Kennedy said, owning the building would not make financial sense.

Regardless of whether the overnight bylaw is enforced or if Weeds gets its variance to run a cannabis shop closer than 100 metres from a community space, the warming centre will need to find a new place to move to.

One member of the gallery asked council if they were comfortable with the fact that enforcing the “light industrial” zoning bylaw at 7500 Donaldson could lead to the clients of the warming centre to disperse through the community, losing what services the facility did offer, such as a clean space for people using drugs.

“I think this is a sad day that we’re making this decision,” Taylor said to council colleagues. “What we’re facing is a bit of an unknown,” he added, noting that because the facility is run by a local charity and BC Housing, the city has little input beyond bylaws in how or where the service operates.

On June 10, council instructed city staff to organize a meeting between the city, Whispers of Hope and BC Housing (the crown corporation that funds the warming centre), in order to secure a plan for the future of the warming centre facility when, inevitably, the current tenants lease expires or are asked to leave. As of yet, no meeting has been scheduled, the city’s corporate officer Daniel Drexler confirmed at Monday’s meeting.

In a June 21 email, Whispers of Hope indicated to the Gazette that “we encourage the community to build upon and improve current services, rather than eliminate them.”

The statement continued to say that the organization hopes to eventually hand the warming centre off to “an organization more directly associated with housing initiatives take on and continue this project.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Amanda Parsons, a registered nurse on staff at the Northwood Care facility, administers a dose of the Moderna vaccine to Ann Hicks, 77, in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan-Pool
61 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

Twenty-nine people are in hospital, seven of whom are in intensive care

(Big White Ski Resort)
28 more cases of COVID-19 linked to Big White cluster

More than 200 cases have been identified since the cluster was announced

Community mental health workers are in high demand, and a new program at Selkirk College will provide opportunities in this field. File Photo
Selkirk College to train community mental health workers

Twelve students will complete two courses enabling them to work in health and human services

Dr. Cori Lausen, bat specialist, has questions about logging in an unusual bat habitat near Beasley. Photo: Submitted
Kaslo biologist questions logging at unique West Kootenay bat site

Dr. Cori Lausen, a bat specialist, studies a population of bats above Beasley

Robbie Campbell lost his livelihood when the pandemic shut down Shambhala Music Festival. Instead, he spent part of 2020 working on a children’s book called Tulip that is now available. Photo: Submitted
In a lousy year, a Kootenay man was saved by a pink T-rex

Robbie Campbell became a children’s author after the pandemic cost him his livelihood

Syringe is prepared with one of B.C.’s first vials of Pfizer vaccine to prevent COVID-19, Victoria, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 caseload stays steady with 465 more Tuesday

No new outbreaks in health care facilities, 12 more deaths

Inspection of bridge crossing on a B.C. forest service road. (B.C. Forest Practices Board)
B.C. falling behind in maintenance of forest service roads

Auditor finds nearly half of bridges overdue for repair

(Black Press Media files)
Woman steals bottles of wine after brandishing stun baton in New Westminster

Police say the female suspect was wearing a beige trench coat with fur lining

Stand up paddleboarder Christie Jamieson is humbled to her knees as a pod of transient orcas put on a dramatic show on Jan. 19 in the Ucluelet Harbour. (Nora O’Malley photo)
UPDATED WITH VIDEO: Vancouver Island paddle boarder surrounded by pod of orcas

“My whole body is still shaking. I don’t even know what to do with this energy.”

Toronto’s Mass Vaccination Clinic is shown on Sunday January 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Canadian malls, conference centres, hotels offer up space for COVID vaccination centres

Commercial real estate association REALPAC said that a similar initiative was seeing success in the U.K.

Kamala Harris and Joe Biden are sworn into office on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP)
Joe Biden has been sworn in as the 46th president of the United States

About 25,000 National Guard members have been dispatched to Washington

A memorial for the fatal bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos hockey team at the intersection of Highways 35 and 335 near Tisdale, Tuesday, October 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards
‘End of the road:’ Truck driver in Humboldt Broncos crash awaits deportation decision

Sidhu was sentenced almost two years ago to eight years after pleading guilty to dangerous driving

Cumberland photographer Sara Kemper recently took the top spot in a Canadian Geographic photography contest. Photo by Sara Kemper
B.C. photographer takes top Canadian Geographic photo prize

Sara Kemper shows what home means to her in Comox Valley photo

Most Read