Advertisement

Penticton seeks support from other B.C. municipalities in shelter fight with province

Click to play video: 'City of Penticton seeking public input on fight with province over emergency shelter' City of Penticton seeking public input on fight with province over emergency shelter
WATCH: The City of Penticton has decided it will ask taxpayers through a public survey if it should launch a costly legal battle against the province over the future of a controversial emergency shelter. On March 2, city council voted not to renew a temporary use permit for the operation of a winter shelter at Victory Church. The province responded by overruling the decision of the elected city council, invoking its powers to keep the shelter open. Shelby Thom has the latest. – Apr 1, 2021

The City of Penticton is seeking support from other B.C. municipalities in its simmering dispute with the provincial government over the operation of a controversial downtown shelter.

“On behalf of City Council, Penticton Mayor, John Vassilaki, has sent a letter to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) President, Brian Frenkel, requesting UBCM prepare a letter to BC Premier, John Horgan, supporting Council’s position that the Province’s recent use of Paramountcy is a violation of two Council decisions and the City’s zoning Bylaws,” the city said in a news release.

Read more: Penticton city council mulling options in feud over downtown emergency shelter

On March 2, city council rejected BC Housing’s request for an extension of its permit to continue operating a shelter at the former Victory church past March 31, when it was initially slated to close.

Story continues below advertisement

Council declined the permit, it said, because the shelter was originally intended as a temporary winter solution only and, in the following months after the shelter opened in November 2020, had become a ‘nuisance property’ negatively impacting nearby residents and businesses, lacked wrap-around support services and was demanding a high volume of emergency resources.

Click to play video: 'Business owner apologizes for poop tossing incident' Business owner apologizes for poop tossing incident
Business owner apologizes for poop tossing incident – Apr 7, 2021

Housing Minister David Eby responded by saying the government was going to override council’s decision to shutter the shelter by keeping it open.

“After March 31, the province will operate the shelter under our provincial paramountcy authority authorized by the Interpretation Act,” Eby said at the time.

Read more: Penticton emergency shelter to remain open as province overrides city council

“Out of necessity, we will also reluctantly move forward without Penticton’s municipal government in order to address homelessness in that community and avoid future encampments.”

Story continues below advertisement

Now that the province has made good on its threat and has continued operating the shelter without the city’s permission, the city is seeking support from the Union of BC Municipalities.

Click to play video: 'Penticton city council mulling options in feud over downtown emergency shelter' Penticton city council mulling options in feud over downtown emergency shelter
Penticton city council mulling options in feud over downtown emergency shelter – Mar 18, 2021

“My letter to Mr. Frenkel made it very clear that the issue at hand is a matter of land use and cooperative planning between two levels of government,” said Penticton mayor, John Vassilaki.

“Today our previous working relationship of bilateral cooperation has been replaced by a unilateral hammer that puts our residents at risk of having the Provincial Government plan our community.  As such, Council has reached out to Mr. Frenkel and the UBCM membership at large to seek their support in reversing the Province’s conduct towards Penticton, or any other community they disagree with.”

Read more: City of Penticton seeking public input on fight with province over emergency shelter

Story continues below advertisement

The city also released data from the Housing Ministry that shows Penticton offers more supportive housing units per capita than any other community in the B.C. Interior.

Penticton has 234 units of supportive housing, which equates to one bed for every 143 residents.

Click to play video: 'Province willing to fight Penticton city council over future of downtown winter shelter' Province willing to fight Penticton city council over future of downtown winter shelter
Province willing to fight Penticton city council over future of downtown winter shelter – Mar 11, 2021

By comparison, Kelowna has 486 beds, or one bed for every 312 residents. Vernon offers 97 supportive housing units, one bed per every 496 residents.

Meanwhile, the city has closed a public survey which had asked Penticton residents, in part, if they would support a legal challenge, which could cost taxpayers $200,000-$300,000.

The results are expected to be discussed at the April 20 regular council meeting.

Sponsored content