Warming centre overshadows cannabis store at Monday council session

Council also heard about disk golf, city park camping and an RDKB housing survey

Though not even on the agenda for Grand Forks city council’s committee of the whole meeting on Monday, the warming centre on Donaldson Drive became the centre of conversation.

Council was meant to discuss moving forward with a license to operate for a cannabis retail store operated by Weeds Glass and Gifts but went on a tangential discussion about the future of the warming centre. The facility, operated by Whispers of Hope Benevolence Society, is currently using the building that will eventually host the cannabis store. But while Weeds wait for provincial approval to operate the retail outlet, (a process that they say could take up to eight more months), the company is renting out the building below cost to Whispers of Hope.

“The intent was to help this community and the disenfranchised,” said Weeds representative Jim Kennedy. “It seems to me there’s another side of that that we weren’t aware of,” he added, referring to the backlash expressed by some members of the community about the warming centre.

“We [Weeds] certainly do not want to have a negative impact from our store in the community,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said that though the lease with Whispers of Hope was meant to expire at the end of April, the owner of the building has been incrementally extending it in order to accommodate the warming shelter and because Weeds is not ready to occupy the building. But, the representative noted, Weeds is a business and if renting the space as a warming centre becomes no longer financially viable, the owners may make the decision to end their agreement to lease the space for the warming centre.

Acknowledging that the future of the warming centre’s location is not guaranteed, council moved to schedule a meeting with Whispers of Hope and BC Housing — the organization that is funding the shelter — to make plans for the future.

Regional housing assessment necessary but too late, say councillors

The Regional District of Kootenay-Boundary is moving ahead with an application to the Union of BC Municipalities in search of funding to conduct a region-wide housing assessment. Vacancy rates throughout the Boundary and Kootenay regions are low and a lack of suitable rental options is felt acutely in Grand Forks. Though council expressed support for the grant, Coun. Moslin was quick to say that it may not be of much use to Grand Forks to know the vacancy rate of Rossland, for example.

“I’m getting tired of putting off discussions about housing,” Moslin told council after learning that the results from the RDKB-led survey may not be in within the next year.

No more free camping in city parks

Council added a sixth and final city park to a schedule of locations where it will be illegal to overnight. With the latest version of the Park Access bylaw, none of Grand Forks’s six parks will permit camping (aside from the designated campground at city park). The bylaw makes it tougher to create a “tent city,” such as the one set up in Victoria in a municipal park.

However, staff informed council Monday that it may remain legal to overnight on other municipal lands that aren’t designated as parks. A provincial court precedent states that a municipality must open up space in city parks to camping when the number of people experiencing homelessness in a city exceeds the number of shelter beds available. Though Grand Forks does not yet meet this description, a lack of a recent point-in-time homelessness count makes it tougher for the city to accurately estimated the number of people who may need shelter.

Disk golf coming to Grand Forks

Grand Forks may soon have a new tourist draw on the west end of town, where advocates plan on opening a disk golf course beside the ball diamond at Angus MacDonald Park. Roly Russell, director of Area D – Rural Grand Forks, presented the course layout to council on Monday morning. Both Russell and disk golf proponent Dan Macmaster (a self-proclaimed “disk golf junkie”), suggested that the sport would be another draw for people coming through town and would serve as a way to put the public land beside Angus MacDonald Park to good use. The baskets — used like the holes on a golf course — are queued up and ready to be ordered, said Macmaster, adding that they are easily movable and therefore the game merits a high benefit-to-cost ratio.

Russell also suggested that disk golf makes for a good sport for all ages and abilities. Neither Russell nor Macmaster gave a timeline of when they expected to see disks fly at Angus MacDonald Park.

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