Changes to the Official Community Plan are up for debate as the new application for a women's recovery centre is being considered by mayor and council.
Beginning at 7 p.m. on Jan. 10, the Vanway elementary school gymnasium will be the forum for residents to give their input regarding proposed changes to the OCP to allow "temporary housing for vulnerable populations" in residential areas as well as including references for special needs housing as opposed to just affordable housing.
The proponents of the Northern Supportive Recovery Centre want to convert the former Haldi Road elementary school into a 30-bed residential women's facility. In order to do so, they require a change to property's zoning as well as the OCP, the city's document guiding land use, which was last officially upgraded in June 2012.
The subject property, 5877 Leslie Rd., is designated as Rural B under the OCP, marked for "moderate-intensity rural residential use" with a minimum lot size of one per two hectares.
Future land-use policy direction in the plan says the city should provide for development that addresses "a desire for a rural lifestyle" as well as "provide for very limited development, including low-intensity residential use, hobby farms and similar uses."
As it currently stands, the facility doesn't fit into the OCP's housing spectrum.
"The proposed Northern Supportive Recovery Centre for Women is a needed form of supportive housing in Prince George; however, the proposed program is unlike most existing programs, as it requires isolation from the urban centre. Because of this, a rural setting is the preferred location for this use," the proponents wrote in their application to the city. "A range of housing options, including supportive housing, should be permitted in any residential designation, as it is everyone's right to determine their preferred lifestyle characteristic, whether urban, suburban, or rural, including the operator of a supportive housing facility."
To that end, the amendment to be addressed Thursday night would "permit affordable housing and/or special needs housing, at densities council considers appropriate, in all the residential area including rural areas."
While that broad change would paint every neighbourhood in the entire city with the same brush, another proposed change would be site specific to allow a therapeutic community care facility at the Leslie Road property "for the supportive residential care of up to 30 persons who receive care or support primarily related to substance dependence, mental health issues or both."
Council gave the first two readings to the application Dec. 17. A separate public hearing for the project's rezoning aspect of the application will occur during an upcoming city council meeting.
Those unable to attend the public meeting can still provide the city with comment regarding the OCP amendment until noon on Jan. 21 by emailing city planner Deanna Wasnik at dwas...@city.pg.bc.ca.
Opponents to the plan have started an online petition for which they are attempting to collect 5,000 names.
Created on www.activism.com by area resident Jan Sevin, the petition calls for city council to decline the application for the bylaw to change the OCP.