The City of Pitt Meadows took another step toward having its own RCMP detachment, by securing a site on Harris Road.
The city used an alternate approval process to rezone 2,300 square meters of parkland north of the Pitt Meadows Heritage Hall, so it can be used for construction of a new police detachment. The site is currently occupied by the Pitt Meadows Art Gallery, and a storage building.
With this alternative approval process, the proposal would fail if 10 per cent of the city’s 14,311 eligible voters were against the rezoning. Anything less than 1,431 no votes would be taken as approval by the electors. The city received just 202 valid elector response forms by the June 28 deadline, or 1.4 per cent of all eligible voters.
Mayor Bill Dingwall took the comparatively small opposition as a public endorsement of council’s plan, and said the new site for a detachment is a key consideration.
“This one was important – we believe that’s the right location,” he said.
He said the new police office may encroach on field space for a ball field, but said that is not a certainty, and is an issue council can address.
“At this stage, we wait for the architects.”
The art gallery will also be moved.
He said councillors are unanimous in their support of the plan, and the city’s number one priority at this time is “repatriating the RCMP to Pitt Meadows.” The issue is value for money – council believes Ridge Meadows RCMP officer spend more time policing in Maple Ridge, as calls take them out of Pitt Meadows.
Coun. Bob Meachen told council he did an informal canvass of businesses neighbouring the proposed site, and found them supportive.
“That seems to be the area where we’re seeing the most petty crime, serious crime, and they all can’t wait for that to be a reality – the new RCMP detachment in Pitt Meadows,” he said.
The RCMP will file a report on the city’s proposal to the province – which Dingwall said could happen any day. The province will then decide whether to allow Pitt Meadows to have an independent detachment.
“I know we have the support of E Division (BC RCMP headquarters),” he added.
He hopes to have the province’s decision no later than September.
The plan has critics, and taxpayer Darlene Mercer fears her property tax bill is going to rise to pay for policing – starting with more than $18 million needed to construct the new building.
“I don’t feel unsafe because of the setup we have now,” said Mercer, accusing council of “champagne tastes on a beer budget.”
She was not surprised that just 202 people voted against the loss of park designation in the alternative approval process, saying the city should have sent a ballot to every household, along with information. The alternative approval process allowed the city to take advantage of public apathy, at a time when people are enjoying summer vacation and emerging from the pandemic.
“There is a ton more opposition than 200 people,” said Mercer.
Sandie Banni said she has also heard little support for the new detachment in the city. She said the alternate approval process should have waited until after the pandemic, and been more accommodating of people who have limited computer skills.
“This is something that should have gone to a referendum,” she said. “It should be an election issue.”
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