One of the local MLAs who rejected a second proposed site for a homeless shelter and supportive housing complex in Maple Ridge is now blaming the city for construction of such a facility being stalled.
Doug Bing, MLA for Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, said the city could have had a housing complex well on its way if council hadn’t tossed the issue over to the provincial politicians.
“It’s really something that council has passed on to us because they have made some very bad decisions,” Bing said last week.
Council had the chance of fast-tracking the proposal to get the housing complex built, he added.
Bing made similar comments in October, when he said that the city should have gone through a rezoning and public hearing process to allow B.C. Housing to build a $15-million supportive housing complex at 21375 Lougheed Hwy.
Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read wrote to Premier Christy Clark on Sept. 23, saying the MLAs should take on the public consultation process.
That was just a few days after Clark visited Maple Ridge and said the MLAs would have final say on the location of the shelter.
The MLAs are now having an open house on the topic in late January.
Bing said that, at that time, he didn’t have an opinion on that location for a shelter.
“We never said anything. That’s total speculation that if [it was] rezoned … that the two MLAs would have rejected it. There was no consultation with us. They never asked what our opinion was,” Bing said.
“Why would we have done [rejected] it? It’s a democratically elected mayor and council … why would we reject it?”
If council had followed through with B.C. Housing’s request for rezoning, “then we would be on our way to having this shelter built.”
Bing said he knew the public opposed that site, but council “knew what it needed to do.
“There have been lots of controversial land-use decisions.”
Both he and Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton now oppose the site.
“We do, but that’s months after the fact,” after hearing public opinion against it.
The B.C. government announced Dec. 9 that it was abandoning 21375 Lougheed Hwy. as a location for a supportive housing complex and shelter.
Housing Minister Rich Coleman said that both MLAs were “instrumental” in pushing for another site.
Bing, in that news release, said he was “grateful” to people for expressing their concerns.
“I’m glad to see that a decision has been reached that will allow us to move forward with an alternative option that will be in the best interests of all Maple Ridge residents.”
A petition was collected by operators of nearby businesses opposing the location.
Mayor Nicole Read has said earlier that the city doesn’t want to take on the consultation and rezoning, if the MLAs could just reject the project.
She said on Thursday that she had reason to expect the MLAs would reject the 21375 Lougheed location, just as they had rejected the Quality Inn location, proposed earlier in 2016 as an interim housing solution.
“The way that [the Quality Inn] was handled leads me to not trust their decision.”
Maple Ridge council and senior staff could have spent time and energy on a rezoning process, but there was still a “significant risk” that the MLAs would have rejected it.
“I think they are back-tracking,” Read said last week.
“I think they are feeling pressure from the community about their decision making.”
The site was also supposed to contain space for interim housing, until a new building was completed. But with the location now ruled out, there’s still no place for the 40 people in the temporary emergency shelter in downtown Maple Ridge to go when that closes on March 31.
Read said council decided to turn the process over to the MLAs soon after the premier spoke.
“We did not meet with the MLAs to discuss that. In light of her decision that MLAs were going to be the de facto approving authorities, we needed to make a quick decision about what was the best way to allow them to do that.”
There was nothing to talk to the MLAs about, she added.
“This seemed to be a decision from the premier.”
Read said she took seriously comments by Clark that the MLAs would have the final say on the location of a shelter.
That was confirmed by the senior administration, she said.
“It’s not just an interpretation of the comments.”
She said on Oct. 11 that she never received a reply from her letter to the premier.
“Whenever I have this conversation with someone from another city, they cannot believe that our two MLAs came out opposed a solution [Quality Inn] that was brought forward by their minister.”