Four city-owned lots on 70th Avenue across from Dick Bartlett Park will not host a BC Housing supportive housing project. Council voted unanimously on Monday night against rezoning the lots to accommodate the high-density building.
The vote comes after months of protest, letter-writing and public discussions made it clear that a significant and vocal number of the lots’ neighbours did not want to see the supportive housing project go ahead.
“It’s impossible to ram something down the public’s throat, at the municipal level,” Coun. Chris Moslin said before moving “that council not not proceed to third reading” with the zoning amendment.
Seeing all present councillors raise their hands to vote with Moslin and hearing the two who were away (Couns. Neil Krog and Christine Thompson) speak their opposition to the 70th Avenue project over the phone, many in the gallery let out an audible sigh to punctuate the debate.
One gallery member said “Any housing is better than no housing,” on her way out of the chamber, voicing disappointment with the decision.
The city had previously offered BC Housing several locations as options for the supportive housing project in an effort to divert it from its originally planned location at 2nd Street and Central Avenue downtown.
“[They] made it abundantly clear to [council] that they were not interested in any other location,” said Thompson in her voting statement. After discussions with BC Housing and the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Selina Robinson, Thompson said that the province showed “no movement” on its choice.
In a June 3 email to the Gazette, a representative from BC Housing wrote that “If council does not approve or support the 19th Street site, BC Housing will consider next steps […] and may proceed with construction at the originally selected location, which is already properly zoned for supportive housing.”
The BC Housing statement, however, is not entirely accurate. There is currently a bylaw governing the population density in downtown Grand Forks that the original supportive housing project would contravene if built. City staff noted Monday though that the bylaw currently also renders several other 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.
While the city waits to see what BC Housing’s reaction will be to the decision, the lots in question at Monday’s meeting will be used by the construction company building the affordable housing project on adjacent lands off 19th Street and 68th Avenue, as a location for its mobile office.