Residents of the Agassiz Road area in Kelowna took to the street outside Kelowna City Hall Monday to protest a proposed controversial supportive housing project aimed at housing the homeless.
About 100 people showed up prior to council’s weekly afternoon public meeting to once again voice their opposition to plans for the 52-unit facility to be built by BC Housing.
The residents are concerned about neighbourhood safety and a possible decline in surrounding property values if the project goes ahead. They say because the the facility would allow residents to use drugs on site it could increase crime and drug dealing into their neighbourhood.
BC Housing says safety procedures will be put in place, including secured and monitored access to the building, only open to residents and their guests, as well as a health care staff on site 24 hours per day. They described the facility as a “harm reduction” housing project.
It says in other places where similar facilities have been built, local crime rates have not gone up.
But area resident Don Davies, a member of the new Ambrosi Neighbourhood Association, said Monday he and many of his neighbours don’t believe that.
And he accused BC Housing officials of lying to the the residents.
His said he is also concerned BC Housing paid too much for the property and wasted taxpayer dollars.
He said residents are not opposed to the facility being built, but they don’t want it in their neighbourhood.
A similar development called Hearthstone is now open on Commerce Avenue between Enterprise Way and Highway 98, a commercial-industrial area farther north in the city. He said he felt that was an appropriate area for such a facility.
The proposed development is slated for 2025 Agassiz Road, just south of the Orchard Plaza shopping centre. A public hearing to rezone the property to allow development of the housing facility is slated to go Jan. 17 at city hall.
The area residents, many of whom are seniors and live in nearby condominium buildings, have protested the plan several times in the past since it was announced last summer.
As a result of B.C. Housing’s plan, area residents formed the Ambrosi Neighbourhood Association.
Residents have already held one protest, outside an open house a few weeks ago at a Kelowna hotel where B.C. Housing attempted to explain the project to the public.
The public hearing will give city council an opportunity to hear directly from the applicant, supporters and opponents of the project before deciding if it will give final approval to the rezoning bylaw.
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