Grand Forks’ Motocross site will almost certainly not be developed into supportive housing, according to David Eby, Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing.
Eby in a March 2021 letter to mayor and city council promised to bolster explorations at the city-owned “Motocross site” (Moto) atop Morrissey Creek Road, long occupied by people experiencing homelessness. In the same letter, Eby encouraged the city to keep open the temporary homeless shelter at the old Hardy View Lodge.
Negotiations between Eby and Coun. Everett Baker meanwhile suggested the province would fund the project and return BC Housing’s contentious Second Street property to city ownership in exchange for a part of Moto, Eby said in an interview with The Gazette last spring.
Having met with city council and MLA Roly Russell Monday, Nov. 8, Eby said a preliminary analysis pointed to “First Nations’ archaeological interests” at Moto, effectively killing the project.
“It’s not totally off the table, but it’s unlikely,” he told The Gazette, noting that a number of alternate sites are being seriously considered.
BC Housing’s John Brendan McEown, Director of Regional Development for the Interior, later explained that a third-party investigation strongly suggested there are “multiple artifacts on the Motocross site, potentially including human remains. This would entail a very lengthy review with a professional archaeologist prior to any development on that site.”
Bringing utilities to the site, including a large septic tank, would very likely disturb these artifacts, McEown and Eby said. Moto also lacks a safe pedestrian and bike crossing where Morrissey Creek Road meets Highway 3, they added.
Asked why the site had been considered at all, Eby said, “Moto had a number of things going for it, not the least of which was that a number of the folks that we’re hoping to house are already in that area, living outside.”
Eby said his office will continue to work with the city and BC Housing to find an alternative site for supportive housing — one that would “meet both the city’s interests as well as the requirements of BC Housing.”
He and McEown said BC Housing has no plans to offer supportive housing at its Second Street location near the downtown core.
“I would say that our shared goal is to find a site that works for everybody, and the Second Street site is not that,” Eby said. If anything, Eby said the site might be considered for seniors’ housing, in which case he suggested the site could double as a seniors’ centre.
The Second Street site remains the focus of a potential land swap, he continued, stressing that BC Housing would need to own whatever site was selected for a supportive housing facility. Once built, McEown said BC Housing would hope to offer beds for 30 tenants, plus additional beds at an extreme weather shelter at the same location.
The temporary weather shelter at the old Hardy View Lodge is set to run until March 31, 2022, according to a temporary use permit granted by council last spring.
The city is still pursuing a Supreme Court injunction to evict five people living at Moto.