Maple Ridge buying shelter land first

Public to be consulted after housing location set.

Yvan Charette and other downtown business operators don’t like the fact that street people hang about the temporary homeless shelter on the highway.

The City of Maple Ridge will buy the land intended for the interim homeless shelter and ask the public questions afterwards.

Chief administrator Ted Swabey told council Monday that he wanted to clarify the process that will take place for building the interim shelter and permanent housing complex.

“Once we have the property purchased … we would then consult with the public on the project itself, not on the location of the property within the community.

“The rezoning process and the public process … will give the public a couple opportunities to come forward to talk to council about their concerns with the project and how we can mitigate the potential impact …”

Efforts continue to deal with homelessness in Maple Ridge following the dismantling of the Cliff Avenue tent city in October and the extension of the temporary homeless shelter at 22239 Lougheed Hwy., a year longer than planned.

B.C. Housing is paying $15 million for a permanent housing complex to be built in Maple Ridge. Once a location has been determined, the city will buy the property and B.C. Housing will use it on a long-term lease.

But first, an interim shelter using mobile trailers must be set up, for about three years, to allow for construction of the permanent housing building and closure of the temporary shelter.

“I think we need to be clear on the way this moves forward,” said Mayor Nicole Read.

“I want it to be clear about that process right now, up front, because I don’t want to get down the road and find out that anybody is confused about the decision making …”

Coun. Gordy Robson said land sales are usually done on the condition that rezoning is achieved before a sale completes.

People have been told they’d be consulted on the location, he added.

One way to do that could be for the city to use the land it buys for another purpose, if the outcry is too strong.

“The fact that we may buy the property first doesn’t mean we’ve made a decision to build there, because there are other uses for the property.”

In addition to a public hearing for rezoning, people could also have their say at a development information meeting that precedes the rezoning application.

As well, as soon as the property is acquired, Maple Ridge and B.C. Housing would host an open house on the project.

Parallel processes, such as a speakers series and a neighbourhood advisory committee, would also give the public a chance to give input.

Council, in a closed meeting, could have the location of the shelter confirmed as early as July 25.

Coun. Craig Speirs said, regardless of the location, there will be a “huge sensitivity.”

He doesn’t want to “hold things up any further.”

Coun. Kiersten Duncan said getting the public to agree on a site before the city actually buys it could take a lot of time and money.

“If we try to do a public process first and look at potential properties … the costs are going to go up exponentially. It’s going to make it extremely difficult to do this. It’s going to be a very long process.”

The site selection process is underway.

The site will be for the interim shelter, composed of mobile trailers that would remain open for about three years, until a permanent housing complex is built. It’s not clear if the interim shelter and permanent shelter will be constructed on the same site.

The interim shelter will allow people in the temporary homeless shelter to close after it has twice been extended. Currently, it’s scheduled to close by April.

Swabey said council has already discussed the process in a closed meeting and the city’s already negotiating on a property, with the possible additional purchase of more land, subject to council approval.

Council earlier approved the consultation process, which calls for a four-stage process: buying the property, designing the site and building, creating an operating agreement, building an interim shelter, issue a request for proposals on building a permanent structure.

The city will also release information once the site has been bought, to notify people of the date of the public hearing for rezoning, as well as following any update to council.

 

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