Housing incentives, shelter questions presented to council

An advisory group will recommend that council extend shelter’s operation to Apr. 30, 2020

During a marathon day that saw Whispers of Hope make their case to the city to change its zoning bylaws to allow for a shelter at 7500 Donaldson Dr., residents raise concerns about rapidly climbing taxes and an update on the buyout and flood protection process being undertaken by the city, Grand Forks City Council also moved forward with several decisions to spur growth in the city.

Warming centre to close for now

The warming centre will cease offering services this week on Aug. 15. The shelter, operated by Whispers of Hope, was told by their landlord last month that its current use of the city’s zoning bylaws and they therefore must vacate the building. While services end this week, Whispers of Hope will be spending the next few weeks moving out and cleaning up.

Meanwhile, Whispers of Hope has noted that the city’s current zoning bylaws do not permit for an overnight shelter anywhere in Grand Forks, leading to a stumbling block for the Social Services Advisory Group, made up of service stakeholders and resident representatives, which unanimously agrees that an winter shelter is necessary in Grand Forks. As such, the group moved Tuesday to ask that the city rescind a letter to the building owner, which indicated that their tenants (Whispers) were in conflict with the rule, so that the warming centre can remain as an interim operation until Apr. 30.

Council will see the request at their Sept. 3 meeting.

The advisory group also requested that other managing organizations be explored to take over the operations of a future shelter.

Suite deals for developers

In a unanimous vote Monday, council decided to waive development and building permit fees for people planning on building garden suites or secondary units on their properties for the next two years, effective immediately.

The move is “to try and get some incentive into the community here to create [housing], looking at the longterm benefits,” explained Mayor Brian Taylor before the vote.

Considering that Boundary Family Services has received more applications that there are available units in the affordable housing complex on 19th Street, the city is moving to grow the rental market in town to make living in Grand Forks more manageable.

To expedite the approval process for suites, council also delegated approval for suite permits to city staff so that developers do not need to bring their requests before council.

Market district designation moves forward

All Market Avenue storefronts from 5th Street to Riverside Drive are officially part of the “Market District,” Grand Forks’s latest neighbourhood designation. The rebrand comes following suggestions from city revitalization consultant. During his July visit, Roger Brooks also recommended that, for Grand Forks to become a tourist draw, the city designate a Market District downtown and work towards making the city the “Cycling Capital of Canada.”

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