Another battle is brewing between the City of Penticton and the provincial government over a proposed supportive housing project in the South Okanagan town.
BC Housing is pushing forward with plans to build up to 54 new purpose-built, permanent supportive homes at 3240 Skaha Lake Rd. for people at-risk or experiencing homelessness.
The housing agency quietly purchased the 1.2-acre lot for $2.1 million in July, according to BC Assessment records.
In January, Penticton mayor John Vassilaki asked the province to hit pause on plans to build the fourth supportive housing development in the city until a third-party review of existing facilities is complete.
Vassilaki said the city has outstanding concerns about the way the other BC Housing projects are being operated.
“Our businesses are suffering, the neighbourhoods in the residential areas are suffering, crime has risen substantially,” Vassilaki said.
Blake Laven, director of development services, confirmed the city’s position has not changed.
“Council has requested a review of the other supportive housing facilities in Penticton to be submitted prior to a development application for additional supportive housing units being made on this site,” he said.
However, BC Housing says it has already submitted a development permit application to the city so that construction can begin.
It’s unknown if the requested review is underway, but any results have not been submitted to city hall.
“Our goal is to start construction by late spring or early summer 2021,” said spokesperson Samantha Cacnio in an email to Global News.
“Surveyors are currently assessing soil conditions at the proposed supportive housing site. There are no permits required for this type of work and construction activity has not started.”
Meanwhile, the city’s safety and security advisory committee is drafting guidelines for shelter and supportive housing locations, including the release of a draft map of “no-go” zones.
Skaha Lake Road, the site of the provincial housing project, is located in its proposed “no-go” zone.
The draft guidelines stipulate that housing projects cannot front major travel corridors, including Lakeshore Drive, Main Street (100-700 blocks), Martin Street (100-300 blocks), Riverside Drive, Skaha Lake Road, and Westminister Avenue.
The housing facilities must be a minimum of 150 metres away from Marina Way Beach, Okanagan Beach, Skaha Beach, Gyro Park, Lakawanna Park, Marina Way Park, Okanagan Lake Park, Rose Garden, Skaha Lake Park,
and SS Sicamous, and at least 150 metres away from a school.
“The City’s role in this process can be that of a regulator. The City’s role would not be to find a location for an entity that meets these guidelines, but to ensure that locations selected by entities meet these guidelines,” a staff report said.
The committee will make a recommendation to city council which has the ultimate authority to accept and adopt the guidelines.
The city is embroiled in a dispute with the provincial government after BC Housing invoked paramountcy powers to keep a downtown emergency winter shelter open, against the city’s wishes.
The city is considering filing an injunction against the province in court, which could cost taxpayers up to $300,000 in legal fees. The shelter is currently operating without a municipal permit.
Housing minister David Eby said the shelter would remain open until the Skaha Lake Road supportive housing facility was built.