While Parksville residents and business owners have been voicing their concerns over the past three months regarding the proposed supportive housing project, next week they will have one last chance for public comment.
A public hearing for the rezoning of the site will be held at the Parksville Community and Conference Centre Tuesday, June 19 at 6 p.m.
Prior to the funding announcement earlier this year, the City of Parksville, Town of Qualicum Beach and Regional District of Nanaimo partnered in March of 2017 to purchase the Parksville lot with the express purpose of building a supportive housing facility. The province contributed $30,000 for a development study.
Funding for the $6.9-million project was announced on March 9, along with the announcement that Island Crisis Care Society would manage and staff the supportive housing project.
Since March 9, there have been numerous open houses, public information meetings and council meetings.
Shortly after the funding announcement, some residents began to vocalize their opposition to the project during meetings. A group was formed opposing the project, creating a petition to circulate around the community. The group also held its own meeting, unrelated to any meetings organized by ICCS or BC Housing, on April 13.
Then last month, calls for a referendum for the supportive housing project were voted down at Parksville city council. Councillors Leanne Salter, who made the motion, and Teresa Patterson, who seconded the motion, were the only two members of council who voted in favour of a referendum on the project.
The latest development was a proposal by two people heading the opposition group that the site be used for an alternative affordable rental housing project.
The night before the public hearing, council will have a regular council meeting. On the agenda is a list of public comments submitted to the City of Parksville about the supportive housing project for 222 Corfield St. South. The public comments range from an open house hosted by BC Housing and Island Crisis Care Society and delegations from the proponents to council; comments have also been sent to councillors, to the council email, staff members and BC Housing and ICCS.
According to a news release from the city Tuesday (June 12), the city has published the list of comments received formally through emails (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org) and written comments delivered to city hall.
“Given the number of parties and groups receiving comments in advance of the formal statutory process, staff has requested those who have submitted comments to ensure their correspondence has been formally received in advance of the public hearing. Verbal comments made outside of the formal public hearing are not recorded and do not form part of the public record,” the news release reads.
If anyone finds that their comments are not represented on the list, they can re-submit their comments to email@example.com prior to 4 p.m. on June 19.
The city’s news release also states that a yellow card currently being distributed, telling people to voice their concerns to council, is not from the City of Parksville and “the information on the card is not factual.”
Other projects in the province
Supportive housing projects in other municipalities in B.C. have raised some of the same concerns from the public as the project at 222 Corfield St. South.
A supportive housing facility was opened last March in Abbotsford called Hearthstone Place.
According to a story by the Abbotsford News, housing for the homeless has faced opposition from neighbours worried about crime both in Abbotsford in the past and, more recently, in Vancouver. When first proposed, residents of the neighbourhood closest to the Gladys Avenue site worried the new facility would lead to increased levels of property crime.
Calvin de Jong, who lives in the area near Hearthstone Place and whose father had started a petition against the project, said residents had been worried that the building would magnify property crime problems they attributed to the homeless camps closer to the Salvation Army.
That “ended up not being the case,” said de Jong. Instead, residents of the new building have “kept to themselves” and don’t seem to be from the camps.
Statistics obtained by the Abbotsford News suggest the opening of the supportive housing facility didn’t lead to a surge of problems in the area.
Since opening, the new building hasn’t led to a spike in bylaw or criminal complaints from residents of the residential neighbourhood closest to the Gladys site.
Residents made only two bylaw complaints related to homelessness issues or people in the area in 2017, the same as in 2016, according to figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request.
Statistics from the Abbotsford Police show the neighbourhood saw only around a half dozen criminal complaints between May and October of last year. That figure is the fewest such complaints for that time period over the last five years.
Megan Capp, Hearthstone’s manager, said she hasn’t received any formal complaints since opening.
In Coquitlam however, the homeless shelter 3030 Gordon, that opened in 2015, has received some adverse community responses.
According to the Maple Ridge- Pitt Meadows News, businesses around 3030 have complained about loitering, discarded needles and sometimes threatening or disruptive behaviour from those around the facility, which offers 30 emergency beds, plus 30 transitional suites.
The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News also reported that there’s been a spike in police calls from the area, though police say the actual crime rate hasn’t climbed.
Coquitlam Coun. Craig Hodge said not enough support services are provided at the facility. “You put a roof over their head but the problem spills out on the street when they’re not in their room.”
On Vancouver Island, the provincial government and the City of Courtenay are partnering to build new modular housing, in an effort to address the need for supportive housing in the Comox Valley.
Forty-six homes are proposed to be built on city-owned land at 988 – 8th St. for seniors.
The project will include 24/7 services to support homeless individuals.
The housing project has drawn criticism from some of the neighbourhood patrons.
At a Courtenay public hearing last month, several Kiwanis residents said the project would heighten an already troubling situation in terms of drug activity and aggressive behaviour, considering the proximity of the Salvation Army shelter on Pidcock Avenue and the Comox Valley Recovery Centre.
According to the Comox Valley Record, the opposed feel supportive housing projects should be dispersed throughout the city, not concentrated in their neighbourhood.
To read all the previous stories on the project published by The NEWS and other Black Press publications, visit www.pqbnews.com