After two decades of running a business with the homeless at their doorstep, it’s time to move.
Joanne and Ben Pinkney have put their Maple Ridge Pool and Spa Centre business on Cliff Avenue up for sale for $1.4 million.
The couple had a front-row seat to the tent city homeless camp that was on Cliff Avenue last spring and summer.
And for years before that, she put up with people sleeping in the bush in the ravine just across the road.
Joanne Pinkney said the neighbourhood changed when the Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries on Lougheed Highway moved in across the alley in 2001.
It just escalated when the Salvation Army went in, she added.
“I’ve got clippings and letters back to the mayor going back to before the Salvation Army went in, saying we don’t want it there.”
That attracted people who would spend their nights in the shelter and get their meals, then hang about near the business during the day.
“I couldn’t believe how we were left to fend for ourselves with the authorities … not having the authority to do anything.”
The Pinkneys built the building in 1997, then in 2003, sold the business and lived upstairs in the same building. Another owner ran the business under a different name until 2013. The Pinkneys again took over operating as Maple Ridge Pool and Spa.
They considered selling last year, but with the homeless camp in front of them, it was difficult.
Still, last year was a great year for sales because it was hot and dry.
“Last year was a phenomenal year, even though we had the front door locked,” to keep out campers from the tent city.
This summer, sales have dropped because of the cool weather.
“This year, the weather has not cooperated at all,” she said.
Some people have just opened their backyard pools.
“We just don’t feel like putting in the hours anymore to make it go.”
Now it’s time to sell and retire. They wanted to do that a decade ago, but they had to resume operating the business when the previous one closed.
Pinkney said the previous business also had to deal with people rifling through the garbage container and loitering.
Things have improved lately, however, after the Salvation Army moved its outdoor tent and table and since the temporary homeless shelter opened last fall at 22239 Lougheed Hwy.
Pinkney said once the building is sold, they will leave downtown.
“It won’t be in Maple Ridge. I might go to Pitt Meadows. They don’t have a homeless problem there because they send them all over here.”
Deb Lowell, of the Salvation Army B.C. division, said her organization is trying to address the issues of homelessness in Maple Ridge.
The Maple Ridge shelter created a screened, outdoor space for people to gather during the day and also made space for storing personal belongings.
Lowell said the shelter also follows a good neighbour policy in which staff and residents try to keep the surroundings clean. If people are hanging around, Salvation Army staff encourage them to make use of resources.
“We’re just trying to continue to meet the needs of people seeking assistance,” Lowell said.
Kevin Morneau, a realtor, said there have been a few inquiries since the spa property was listed a few weeks ago. He’ll also contact the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to see if it’s interested in the property.
The City of Maple Ridge has been pressing the province to improve the Haney Bypass, as well as the intersections at either end, one of which is Lougheed Highway and 222nd Street, near the spa building.
Maple Ridge Coun. Gordy Robson was happy to hear that the Pinkneys have decided to move on.
“I look forward to them enjoying their retirement. I’m really happy to see them get out of there.”
Across the street from the spa building, at 22190 Cliff Ave., owner Laura Mirasty plans to build about 60 condos on the property, with construction starting within the year.
“That should be a very nice property when we finish it.”