Shelters must go, rules appeal board

Shelters in downtown Peace River must go, ruled the Peace River Subdivision Appeal Board. Gun-Shy, the owners of the two shelters, have until Dec. 21 to remove the structures. Gun-Shy argued unsuccessfully no development took place and the storage of the structures is not in violation of the land use bylaw.

Susan Thompson
South Peace News

Two prototype shelters must be removed from downtown Peace River after an appeal of the decision was denied.

The mobile shelters were built by the PurpleRung Foundation, founded by Brent Taylor of Gun-Shy Investments and his partner, Trudy Plazier.

The shelters have been sitting unused in a parking lot in a commercial district of downtown Peace River for two years.

The Town of Peace River has consistently argued the shelters were not built to provincial building code.

A stop order was issued to Gun-Shy as the registered landowner on Sept. 4, directing that unauthorized development on the property be stopped and the structures be removed.

Gun-Shy Investments appealed, and the Peace River Subdivision Appeal Board [SDAB] heard the appeal of the stop order in Peace River town council chambers on Oct. 22.

Gun-Shy argues that no development is taking place and the storage of the structures is not in violation of the land use bylaw.

Taylor says the Town is “targeting” him and PurpleRung.

“We have developed a real comprehensive plan and developed good relationships with other not-for-profits within town and outside of town to come up with these solutions,” Taylor says.

“The one that you see and the one that’s been the subject of controversy is, of course, these components, these sort of sleep lockers surrounding a bathroom, which the carcass of that is stored on site.”

He disputes claims they are a ‘development’.

“We haven’t developed anything since 2016. The only thing we’ve done is be involved in trying to get permissions that we need – unsuccessfully – and we feel that this hearing is not at all about the zoning of these things,” Taylor says.

“These orders don’t talk to the real issue that we are trying to solve here.

“They attack on the units but the relevant thing is that this is about the homeless, and it’s a very controversial subject and a lot of haters come to the surface and say, ‘I don’t want that in my neighbourhood,’ and some say they don’t want that at all.”

Taylor says treatment toward him over the issue is the ‘worst from humans’.

“I’ve been bullied. I’ve been threatened with bodily injury if we don’t remove those people.

“There’s a bias here that goes far beyond whether these things are sitting on the property the way they should be.”

Taylor says he has a letter of support in principle from three surrounding municipalities.

Town planner Alisha Mody argues the Town’s position is that the structures do qualify as development that has not been approved.

“The Town’s land use bylaw as well as the Municipal Government Act define what development is,” Mody says. “Any use of land including placing a structure on that land is development.

“There is currently no development permit for the shelters that authorizes the structures which have been referred to in the stop order to be placed on that land,” she adds.

Mody says the Town’s land-use bylaw doesn’t allow emergency shelters in a primary commercial district like the area where the shelters have been stored.

“The development authority at this time doesn’t have the authority to say yes to structures of that nature on any land within the downtown,” she says.

Mody also cautions the SDAB only has the authority to determine whether or not the stop order was properly issued.

Several residents living next to the property, including Ted Sisson and Dr. Michael Ho of Peace Valley Dental, say the activities of homeless people on the property have caused them problems.

Jill Plazier says it’s difficult for her to speak out due to her own relationships to the appellants, but as owner of the property across the street and a landlord herself, she has dealt with many of the same issues as other neighbours.

“With regard to the appeal we seem to have gotten lost in the difficult issue of the homeless people in town and we’ve lost site of the fact that we’re really arguing here is that Gun-Shy as owner and Mr. Taylor as principle seem to think they don’t have to get proper permits to do development down in the downtown core, and I have a real problem with that as a business owner and a taxpayer,” Plazier says.

“We have regulations for a reasons and it would behoove Mr. Taylor to respect them, I think.”

Written submissions in support of the stop order and against the appeal were also submitted by Jeanne Kalyn and Terry Babiy of Peace River Broadcasting, and received by the SDAB.

Chair Orren Ford notes he allowed the appellants and residents to speak well beyond the main subject of the appeal because of the controversial nature of the issue.

On Nov. 6 the SDAB issued its decision, denying the appeal.

The SDAB has given Gun-Shy an extension until Dec. 21 to remove the structures.

The refusal of Taylor and Plazier to force homeless people squatting on their land to leave has also earned them a previous cleanup order, which they also appealed unsuccessfully.

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