It didn’t take long for Kelowna city council to forward a controversial proposal to build a 52-bed supportive housing development to a public hearing Monday afternoon.
But, given the public opposition to the project in the neighbourhood, the public hearing is likely to take much longer.
Council voted unanimously Monday to give the proposed rezoning bylaw for land at 2025 Agassiz Road first and second reading, meaning it will now go to what promises to be a contentious public hearing, likely to be held in January.
Residents of the area, many of whom are seniors and live in nearby condominium buildings are opposed to the project because it will allow residents to use drugs and alcohol on site.
They say they are concerned about safety, a drop in property values and the overall impact on their neighbourhood.
The development, to be built by B.C. Housing, is considered a harm-reduction facility and would have a health care workers on staff to oversee drug consumption by residents.
After council’s decision at its weekly public meeting, residents Dave Bradshaw and Keith Garries said they, along with many residents in the neighbourhood, believe the building is in the wrong location.
They say it should be located elsewhere in the city, not in their residential neighbourhood just south of Orchard Plaza in the city’s Midtown area. Despite that, Bradshaw denied local opposition is a case of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard).
He said the building—part of the province’s bid to create homes for the homeless, some of whom are drug addicts, would be acceptable if it were only for homeless seniors or women fleeing abusive relationships.
But he also said residents are not concerned about tenants of the building, but rather about the type of people he feels would come into the neighbourhood from outside to use drugs with those living in the building.
As a result of B.C. Housing’s plan, area residents have formed the Ambrosi Neighbourhood Association and its members plans to protest outside city hall Dec. 10.
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.
Bradshaw and Garries said they expected council to “rubber stamp” the proposal Monday and vowed to be back with more residents at the public hearing.
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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