Port Alberni City Council has refused to support a transition housing project spearheaded by Kuu-us Crisis Line Society due to move into the former Johnston Road armoury.
But council’s dissent may not be enough to derail the society’s plans.
The issue arose during Kuu-us executive director Elia Nicholson-Nave’s presentation to council about the project at their Monday meeting.
Kuu-us is set to assume tenancy on the federal property after winning a bid through a federal surplus property process last year.
The organization’s intention was to utilize the property’s existing buildings for administration, program delivery and four units of transitional housing.
The federal office administering the program had requested Kuu-us to obtain a letter of support from city council, but council wasn’t forthcoming.
“The issue I have is ‘what is the best use for that property’,” Mayor Ken McRae said.
“When does the federal government have a say over planning in my community —we have the final decision on that property.”
The land is located in a prime commercial location along a tourism corridor, something several Alberni Valley businesses have privately expressed, McRae said.
“But they don’t want to say anything (publicly) because it will hurt their businesses,” he added.
The armoury is zoned CMX1- North Port and downtown core, a designation with a wide variety of uses, city planner Scott Smith said in a later interview.
“Based on their uses that I’m aware of they wouldn’t be required to rezone,” Smith said.
The city’s support is an essential requirement in order to pursue the project, said a spokesperson from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.
But the project can be held in a temporary stasis if that is not the case.
“The …program will consider keeping the project on the active list (along with its corresponding funding) beyond the current fiscal year,” the spokesperson said.
“Provided that there is evidence that the project is making some inroads …and a growing likelihood that it will gain support from the city or city council.”
HRDC has been in contact with Kuu-us and the city to ensure that the property transfer “…would be a welcome addition to its efforts to prevent and reduce homelessness in the region,” the spokesperson said.
“We are currently waiting for the Kuu-us Crisis Line Society to confirm it has the support from the city to proceed.”
McRae held the line about the property’s viability after the meeting.
“There’s better use for the property and they need to work with us.”