Courtenay downtown homeless proposal back in regional district's court

Courtenay council made a "counter proposal" to the Comox Valley Regional District's offer of land in downtown Courtenay to help the homeless.

It's been over two years since the CVRD purchased three lots in the 800 block of Cliffe Avenue for emergency shelter/supportive housing purposes, and over three months since the CVRD made an offer to transfer the land to Courtenay.

But, after in-camera discussion on the matter — closed to the public and media — Courtenay council decided Monday to send what Coun. Starr Winchester called its "counter offer" back to the CVRD.

The CVRD offered to transfer the three properties to the City of Courtenay "for one dollar on the condition that the properties, or proceeds from the properties should the City of Courtenay dispose of the properties, be used for emergency shelter and supportive housing purposes as originally intended when the CVRD purchased the properties."

The City would also receive a minimum of $100,000 from the Vancouver Island Health Authority to assist with the development of an "emergency shelter and supportive housing."

Courtenay council passed a motion that it would accept the CVRD's offer, but with an amendment to add in the word 'or' to Courtenay's offer back to the CVRD, which would make the $100,000 available to use for the development of "an emergency shelter and/or supportive housing project."

Coun. Jon Ambler noted the addition of the word 'or' is important because the City may have an opportunity come up to use the money for just one facet of the two uses.

"So an opportunity comes up where the City of Courtenay could get behind a supportive housing project of some type and we have $100,000 that would enable that to go ahead," said Ambler. "If it's 'and,' then do we feel obligated to hold some back and not let this project go through?

"'And/or' will enable us to apply the resources where the best opportunity arises."

Coun. Ronna-Rae Leonard was opposed and the rest of council present was in favour. Coun. Doug Hillian was not at the meeting.

Mayor Larry Jangula asked City staff to get the offer back to the CVRD as quickly as possible, and request that the issue be added to Tuesday's CVRD board meeting agenda as an emergency item if at all possible.

"The reason I say that is because of the uncertainty of what's happening with that property has caused a huge amount of financial concern and uncertainty to some of the businesses that are located here and I hear from them on a regular basis," said Jangula.

He also said he wanted to make clear the City will not build or run an emergency shelter with municipal tax dollars because that's not part of the City's mandate; instead, property would be turned over to an organization that would take on the task.

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