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Kingston Avenue shelter proposal creating a storm in Kamloops

BC Housing is planning to build a shelter on city land at the east end of Kingston Avenue, a dead-end portion under the Halston Bridge that meets Rivers Trail that connects Schubert Drive to Westmount
Kingston Avenue shelter site
This city-owned parcel of land at the east end of Kingston Avenue in North Kamloops — under the Halston Bridge and adjacent to Rivers Trail — will be used for a homeless shelter as part of a three-shelter plan by BC Housing and the City of Kamloops. KTW photo

Some residents are upset they were not consulted in advance of a shelter announced on Kingston Avenue in North Kamloops and the province is invoking a legislative tool called “paramountcy” to bypass the process.

BC Housing is planning to build a shelter on city land at the east end of Kingston Avenue, a dead-end portion under the Halston Bridge that meets Rivers Trail that connects Schubert Drive to Westmount.

BC Housing is also planning shelters in the former Greyhound building in Southgate and the former Stuart Wood elementary downtown.

Westmount resident Dennis Hayes said he represents 20 to 25 Westmount residents who fear impacts on homes, businesses, elementary schools, Rivers Trail and park space. Hayes said BC Housing should have come to the neighbourhood and detailed plans, which could be in place for five years.

“It’s not the way things should be done,” he said.

BC Housing senior communications advisor Sophie Carrigan Gray cited in an email statement insufficient time for consultation. She said neighbours and business owners have since been notified, adding that BC Housing and the city are planning neighbourhood information sessions.

City of Kamloops CAO David Trawin told KTW residents have made it clear they do not want shelters in their neighbourhoods.

“Because we know what everyone thinks about every location,” Trawin said. “Right? There is no good location.”

Trawin said the city has been pushing the province because Memorial Arena is currently being used as a shelter and the city wants the recreational facility returned to its intended use. In addition, Trawin said winter is approaching and the city is short about 90 shelter spaces.

Trawin said someone without shelter died on the streets during a recent cold snap.

Trawin said the province indicated it did not have time for rezoning — and the public hearing process that would have given citizens a chance to voice opposition — or permits and, as a result, the province asked the city if it opposed use of paramountcy for the Kingston Avenue property. Municipalities are given power by the province to zone, permit and more, but the province can override local government bylaws through a legislative tool called paramountcy.

“I believe the letter back from the mayor was, ‘Well, if you feel you need to use paramountcy to get these projects done in time to meet the goals on that, then you need to do what you need to do,’” Trawin said.

Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian could not be contacted by press deadline.

Council voted to authorize lease of city land on Kingston Avenue to BC Housing. The vote happened during a closed meeting and the decision has yet to be released. Trawin could not detail the vote, but said the decision was not unanimous.

Coun. Denis Walsh said he supports the Greyhound and Stuart Wood shelter locations, but noted he voted against the Kingston Avenue shelter proposal. Walsh said North Kamloops is overloaded with high-risk housing and the project interferes with economic development in the area.

Walsh added that council heard a property owner is backing off plans for industrial development since the shelter announcement.

The question remains: Why was BC Housing caught flat-footed when the number of street individuals was known back in April and winter comes every year? Hayes said Kamloops should follow the City of Penticton, which is standing up to BC Housing through the courts.

Walsh agreed.

“We should push back as a council,” he said.

Coun. Dale Bass, however, said the city can’t tell BC Housing what to do.

“Municipal governments are creations of the provincial governments, so they answer to the provincial governments,” Bass said. “So, yeah, Penticton can take them to court, but does that mean they’re going to win? Doubtful …”