I would like to support the three Courtenay councillors who practised their own form of civil disobedience by standing up for those who voted them and walked out of the council meeting that was about to ram through a decision made in a closed door meeting of the Comox Valley Regional District board.
The CVRD board seems to do take a lot of its business behind closed doors and have not learned the lesson that the best public policy is made under the glare of public scrutiny.
In all the letters on the subject of the homeless shelter I have never read one that said the shelter was not needed. The main bone of contention is its location. In every jurisdiction that has successfully built a shelter there is an open public process when it comes to sitting.
In this case the CVRD board, who are not elected by the people of Courtenay, made an arbitrary decision without engaging the public of Courtenay.
Only two of the eight politicians who were in that closed room when that decision was made were elected by the people of Courtenay and because it was made in a closed meeting of the CVRD we, the voters of Courtenay, will never know how those two voted.
The process is fatally flawed and flies in the face of the democratic principle of representation by population. The three councillors who stood up for the people of Courtenay simply wanted to start this process over, this time engaging the people of Courtenay in the decision.
The site chosen does not fit the Official Community Plan of Courtenay nor does it conform to the zoning bylaw of Courtenay. The CVRD should respect the public process that is inherent in those documents.
Care facilities belong in the public/institutional category of the OCP and should be in the PA-1 zone of the zoning bylaw, not the Commercial category of the OCP and C-1 zone. The CVRD’s consultant should have known that.
A few people have pointed to the old Courtenay Junior School site as a better location for this facility. Its designation happens to conform to both the OCP and the zoning bylaw.
We all know it was bought to build a new RCMP office but when you look at the site it is almost 12,000 square metres, which is twice as big as the existing RCMP station site.
Does the new RCMP station need twice the area? Can we not find the 1,500 square metres that the proposed homeless shelter site would occupy on this site?
It would still leave a site that is 10,500 square metres for the new RCMP station. Alternatively, the proposed shelter site could be used by the RCMP for some of its community outreach programs like victim’s services or community policing creating space for the shelter on Harmston Avenue.
This is only one possible option that could be reviewed if the siting process was restarted and opened up to public process by the elected representatives of Courtenay.
Courtenay has recognized that it is probably the right jurisdiction for the shelter, since it houses the other services that are logically linked to the shelter’s population, but please leave it to the citizens of Courtenay and their representatives to find the best location within our boundaries.