Rutland community members turned out in droves last Sunday to protest the McCurdy Road supportive housing project.
Chants of “keep Rutland safe” rang out from nearly 100 residents as cars drove by and honked in support.
Even passing police officers flicked on their patrol car sirens, tooted their horns and waved as they cruised by the fenced-off lot.
“The reason we are gathered here today is because we are against a facility that does not have rules around drug and alcohol consumption within the proximity of the schools,” Chrissy Lwowski, a concerned resident at the protest.
As cannabis retail stores need to be 150 metres away from elementary schools and 500 metres from high schools in Kelowna, opposed residents said those same rules should apply for wet houses that allow for consumption.
“This is not an appropriate site,” Lwowski said. “We have not run out of land in Kelowna.
“The last we had all heard was this was a dry facility coming in, so we’re all pretty alarmed that it has come through the way that it has and we’re not OK with it.”
The development was originally put forward by religious organization Freedom’s Door but failed to raise appropriate funding. The project was then passed on to BC Housing.
City council had approved the rezoning of the lot for the previously proposed project application, so could only vote on the form and character of BC Housing’s design before issuing, or denying, a development permit.
Coun. Charlie Hodge was the only councillor who put forth a protest vote against the project when the form and character of the development came before council on June 17. (See story A3)
“This project is not the project it was,” he said. “So, it’s a tough decision.”
Christopher Bocskei, a coach, protest organizer, community volunteer and someone who has experienced homelessness, said he knows these facilities are necessary for addicts, vulnerable and at-risk individuals.
But he doesn’t want it to be this close to the kids.
“Drugs will go up, crime will go up, it’s a problem waiting to happen,” Bocskei said.
“We’re trying to save our kids here, we’re trying to save our community.”
He suggested a better location for a facility this size and type would be more successful across the street from the RCMP detachment.
Bocskei said the 49-unit development offers 49 opportunities to have students exposed to, or perhaps even addicted to, substances.
“It is incumbent on the operator, BC Housing and the province to ensure this functions successfully,” responded Coun. Brad Sieben.
A petition was started and shared online June 21 and since then more than 2,600 people have signed it.
Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick also called upon British Columbia’s Housing Minister Selina Robinson to “pause” the project until issues in Heath House and Hearthstone — two other wet facilities — are resolved.
“The people of Rutland are very generous and caring and have done more than their fair share when it comes to housing the hardest to house,” Letnick said in his open letter.
A public information meeting will be held on June 26 at Rutland Centennial Hall, 5:30 p.m.