From The Vault: The Keystone Cops Who Brought You The Abbotsford Homeless Crisis

From Walter Neufeld. February 9, 2014 – To better understand the dysfunctional dynamics which continue to infect Abbotsford’s decisions about our homeless community, Lilly Kaetler’s excellent 2013 article helps lift the veil on the gamers and the incestuous relationships that bind them.

Kaetler helps demystify some of the mystery that continues to shroud well dressed folks who don’t play nice.

Yes, this happened …

Originally published November 21, 2013

The Keystone Cops Who Brought You The Abbotsford Homeless Crisis

By Lilly Kaetler. In 2003, the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA) opposed a 9 bed recovery centre to be adjoined to the Salvation Army, at its previous location at Gladys St. North.

Cover Photo by Bas Stevens

Approximately 200 people, including ex- Mayor Reeves as a past member of the ADBA voted against the proposal.
Shortly after, a committee was formed, which included majority of the ADBA Executive and other property owners in the ADBA area including a couple of realtors.

Mary Reeves

Mary Reeves

The group included Bob Bos, who was president of the ADBA and they voted to have council pass a by-law to allow recovery houses in any residential area in the city, without, a public hearing being required.

Council voted it down, at the time, stating, it would be disingenuous to the citizens of Abbotsford.

It was not long after that, when council, also, implemented C7 zoning, which, excluded recovery houses in the BIA. This special zoning was to help businesses/property owners/investors revitilize the old downtown.

Bob Bos

Bob Bos

Then, back in 2008, the city passed a by-law, which would regulate recovery houses and allow them in single family residential zoned neighborhoods.

As of today, the recovery houses have been assimilated into our neighborhoods and Council just recently changed the By-law to allow a second housing unit on the same street.

Clearly, zoning and bylaws implemented by the city are not concrete and are adapted according to growth and needs within the city.

The ADBA states the city implemented C7 zoning and refers to it as a promise by the city….promise? C7 zoning is a zoning by-law initiated by the city but, I do not believe there are any promises attached to it.

John Smith

John Smith

Having said that, however, I question the cities’ actions in regard to its negotiations with BC Housing and ACS without, any concern about the ADBA and the C7 zoning in the BIA.

Surely, the city knew this would be a very contentious issue with the ADBA, given their previous stance on recovery houses in Historic Downtown dating back to 2003.

Why didn’t the City and B.C. Housing, together, approach the ADBA about this proposal at the beginning of the consultation process, thereby, avoiding a problem, now?

Did the city jump on the ACS project bandwagon, because Abbotsford Community Services was providing the land?

How did this all happen right under the ADBA’S nose especially with Councillor Bill MacGregor is the City’s representative on the ADBA?

Bill MacGregor

Bill MacGregor

The Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce has also come out in opposing changes to C7 zoning, yet, in 2006, they indicated they would support council in all adversity, in relation to opposition to low barrier housing.

What has changed?

Well, perhaps, it’s because ADBA board member, Bob Bos, has served on the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce Executive.

It appears the Chamber’s comment applies, but, not when it involves certain businesses in the city.

Complicating things even more, we have Mayor Banman, who also served on the Abbotsford Chamber Executive Board, just before he was elected into office. And don’t forget his buddies at the Chamber do not support changes to C7 zoning.

And then there is Councillor John Smith, the previous chair of ASDAC, and City representative on the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber is supporting ADBA in their plight against C7 zoning changes, by the City of Abbotsford to allow the ACS low barrier housing project in the Business Improvement area (BIA) in Historic Abbotsford.

The Salvation Army's Deb Lowell

The Salvation Army’s Deb Lowell

Councillor Smith became the chair of ASDAC in 2006 and the committee was formed to “address the city’ most pressing needs.” One would assume that would mean the homeless issue, since the committee arose from the controversy over the shutdown of ‘Compassion Park.’

Bruce Banman

Bruce Banman

Here we are almost eight years later and the homeless are tenting along the railway tracks across the street from a multi-million Mill Tower development and just down the way from the Salvation Army Centre.

At this point, you are probably questioning how the Salvation Army ended up in an Industrial zoned area and attracting homeless camps nearby.

It was the City of Abbotsford, which changed the zoning to allow the Salvation Army to locate in the old Lego Building, after they denied them expansion of the old Salvation Army site, which included a 9 bed Recovery House on the site.

What it all comes down to is bad planning in the past, and a current desire to change a special zoning by-law, previously implemented to revitilize the BIA in Historic Abbotsford.

Added to these problems, we have council members, who are closely associated with members of the ADBA and the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce, Executive and select members and have been working with B.C. Housing and Abbotsford Community Services behind the backs of the ADBA and business leaders in the Old Downtown and the homeless, who have mental health and /or addictions are caught right in the middle of this entire debacle!

Drug War Survivors peaceful protest in Jubilee Park, November 21, 2013. Photo by Bas Stevens

Drug War Survivors peaceful protest in Jubilee Park, November 21, 2013. Photo by Bas Stevens

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