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Cache Creek council says no to transition housing for women and children

Council voted to rescind first reading of a bylaw that would have allowed a residence to be used as housing for women and children.

At its open meeting on August 15, Cache Creek council voted to rescind Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 786, 2016, which would have allowed a residential property on Valleyview Crescent to be used as secondary or transitional housing for women and children who are no longer in a crisis situation but are trying to rebuild their lives.

A public hearing on Bylaw No. 786 held prior to the council meeting saw more than 40 people in attendance. Corry Fehr, who owns the property and had asked for the bylaw amendment, stressed that it would not be a “safe house” or a rehabilitation facility for those recovering from drug and/or alcohol abuse.

Deandra Tousigna, who works with women who are survivors of abuse, said that the bylaw amendment was a first step in providing options for low income women and children, and that community consultation would be a factor going forward. “There needs to be community support to integrate women and children into a community that’s supportive, not one where they would be feared. The program won’t run without community buy-in.”

More than a dozen people, most of whom live on or near Valleyview Crescent, spoke against the proposed bylaw amendment, citing concerns over potential traffic, drug use, violence, an increase in crime, and the possible effect on property values. “I’d always be worried about my kids,” said one woman, while another feared the drama that could come with the site.

One man raised the possible danger of unsupervised children in the community, while another said that he had found a used needle in the Cache Creek park and feared finding them in his own backyard. The owner of a property on Valleyview Crescent said he was worried about the financial impact. “I’m not willing to take a hit financially. Put it on another street, or somewhere else. It’s an honourable thing, but not on my street.” Several other property owners echoed this view, fearing their properties would decrease in value and/or be difficult to sell if the transition house went ahead.

Another concern was the lack of support services and possible employment in Cache Creek, with one speaker noting that most of the services necessary to support families using the facility were in Ashcroft, and that lack of transportation would be an issue.

When the bylaw amendment came up for consideration at the council meeting which followed, Councillor Wendy Coomber noted that there seemed to be a lot of people against the idea. “I hate to be a NIMBY [not in my back yard] but that’s the message I got tonight.” Cllr. Wyatt McMurray noted that council was only being asked to make a decision about allowing a two-family residence on one site, adding that “If we counted votes at a public meeting, we probably wouldn’t have a landfill. It’s about doing what’s right.”

Mayor John Ranta asked “Why are we contemplating a transition house in Cache Creek when it might be better suited to somewhere like Ashcroft, with more services?” He added that it was “incumbent on council to take public opinion into account” on the matter

He advised council that he saw two options: to give the bylaw second and third readings, or rescind it, thus defeating it. Coomber moved to rescind the bylaw, and was seconded by Cllr. Lisa Dafoe. Coomber, Dafoe, and Ranta all voted in favour of the motion, so the bylaw was rescinded. McMurray did not vote, and Cllr. David Dubois was absent due to a family medical emergency.

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