The City of Parksville will refer a temporary use application for a supportive housing facility at the VIP Motel (414 Island Highway West) to Oceanside RCMP, the fire department and bylaw compliance for comment.
After a lengthy debate during its June 20 regular meeting, council was not able to agree on a recommendation to provide public notice of its consideration of Temporary Use Permit No. 22-TUP001.
The building has been operated through a partnership by the Oceanside Homelessness Ecumenical Advocacy Response Team Society (OHEARTS), under the BC Housing supportive housing model, since October 2021, without the required temporary use permit from the city.
BC Housing is asking for the permit to last until March 31, 2023. The organization is leasing the motel from the property owner, VIP Motel Ltd.
Council listened to a presentation by Heidi Hartman, BC Housing Vancouver Island regional director, John McEown, BC Housing regional development director and Dr. Sandra Allison, Island Health Central Island medical health officer.
The VIP was chosen after a fire last year at the Travelodge meant approximately 20 people were suddenly in need of a place to stay.
“We were responding to an emergency situation with the fire and provided this housing quite rapidly in that instance,” McEown said.
The motel, also referred to as Ocean Place, is home to 14 men and six women, according to Hartman, who said the facility is unique in that more than half the residents are over 55.
“We don’t usually see that percentage of seniors within a building, in fact, the oldest is 77,” she said.
Council expressed its frustration with BC Housing officials for operating the facility outside of city bylaw compliance and a perceived lack of communication.
“My biggest concern is we had no signs or information about what was going to be happening at this property,” said Coun. Mark Chandler. “Until we saw a wood sign over top of the VIP signage.”
Coun. Marilyn Wilson said she does not believe BC Housing has been acting in good faith by delaying the temporary use permit request for more than six months. She added businesses in the area have told her they are not supportive.
Coun. Doug O’Brien pointed out the people staying at the VIP are from around the region and not just the city, but “Parksville has been the drop zone, let’s be fair, it really has, with the various BC Housing proposals.”
Hartman said they considered locations around the area before deciding on the motel.
Later in the meeting, an amendment by Mayor Ed Mayne to revise a staff recommendation to include a public hearing on the issue was defeated.
“I really do feel that our public needs to be aware,” said Coun. Teresa Patterson, who said she lives nearby and knows there are concerned neighbours.
Though not happy with the process by BC Housing, O’Brien said he would like council to move forward with the temporary use permit.
An amendment by Patterson that city staff give notice of council’s intent to consider issuance of the permit was tied and therefore defeated.
The notice would have been given to properties within 50 metres of the motel. Coun. Adam Fras asked if the radius could be extended to inform more residents, however doing so would require an amendment to a city procedure bylaw, according to Blaine Russell, director of community planning and building. Russell added the notice would also be advertised in the PQB News.
Since council could not agree on a recommendation to provide public notice of its consideration of Temporary Use Permit No. 22-TUP001, the motion will need to be dealt with at a future meeting.