In a much anticipated vote, Parksville city council approved third reading and adoption for the rezoning of 222 Corfield St. South at Wednesday’s (July 4) regular council meeting.
Councillors Leanne Salter and Teresa Patterson each voted against both motions in a pair of 5-2 votes. Both received cheers from a portion of the crowd when they stated they would be voting against the two motions.
The hall was packed Wednesday night with people showing up with signs opposing the project and rezoning, while others wearing green stickers were in support.
Only councillors Mary Beil, Patterson and Salter spoke on the rezoning.
Beil, the first to speak, said it was understandable for people to have fears of the unknown, and it is quite common to imagine the worst-case scenario. She said there have been fears that the rezoning will lead to increased crime, but she said there is no research to support an increase in crime in areas with supportive housing.
Beil also said concerns were voiced about the planned supportive housing proximity to the downtown core, but people “seem to ignore the examples of supportive services very close to this address and within the downtown core. I am not aware of any concerns of these supportive services and their locations.”
Patterson said the discussions and votes on rezoning 222 Corfield St. South is “most likely one of, if not, the hardest decision I’ve made on council,” speaking against the bylaw.
“It does not in any way mean that I am against supportive housing,” Patterson said.
Patterson began to break down when she spoke, saying that her “heart is breaking and has been for the last month.”
“Tonight’s vote is because our community is at odds and we need to come together and work toward a facility that meets the needs of its citizens.”
The challenges Parksville is facing, Patterson said, are not uncommon in other communities. She said the bylaw needs the people of Parksville’s support, adding that she felt putting forth the bylaw “is not in Parksville’s best interest.”
Salter said she had a dilemma about the motion. She said she was told the motion was only regarding the zoning change, “however since February of last year, we have been talking about supportive housing” on Corfield in unison together.
“Really, this isn’t just zoning, this is regarding the project,” Salter said. “I know you call this a zoning decision, however, we know it’s beyond that.”
Salter said she has been kept in the dark on the project, and has only learned about some of the information regarding the project “quite recently.” She said she couldn’t support tax dollars being spent on a project she hasn’t seen, adding that she’s been told she can’t get more information on the project.
While Salter said she was “moved by the ideals of the proposed supportive housing,” affordable housing is needed and there is a need to provide immediate access to treatment centres where people receive accomodation, nutrition and treatment options by trained officials.
Following the votes on third reading and adoption, Mayor Marc Lefebvre called for a recess, but was interuppted by people yelling comments such as “What about Berwick?,” “The majority is no,” “Shame on you,” and “What a democracy we have,” to which Lefebvre responded by yelling, “shut up” to increased shouts from the crowd.
Throughout the meeting, Lefebvre had been calling for order but to no avail.
During the recess, things continued to heat up at city hall with people from both sides yelling. One woman was removed from the building by RCMP.
Staff Sgt. Marc Pelletier told The NEWS he couldn’t get into the specifics but the RCMP “will be forwarding possible charges (to the crown) for assault on a police officer and obstruction for one female.”
Pelletier said there are no other assaults among the crowd being investigated, but there “was lots of arguing.” He said he wasn’t aware of any other assaults in city hall that didn’t involve a police officer.
“Nobody’s called in saying, ‘I was assaulted,’ or anything like that,” Pelletier said. “I think there was a lot of arguing. The pros and cons (of the supportive housing project/rezoning) were going back and forth calling people names. It was getting kind of unruly… it was getting kind of out of control there.”