Posted on 30 May 2012 by Keith Lacey
The board of directors with the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) has voted to hold a second public hearing on a proposed halfway house for aboriginal offenders on land owned by the Osoyoos Indian Band (OIB) near its Spirit Ridge development in Osoyoos.
OIB Chief Clarence Louie announced in early 2012 plans to open the halfway house in a residential property owned by the band.
Staff from Corrections Canada said the plan was to have five aboriginal offenders who had passed through a rigorous screening process and were committed to finding work and becoming contributing members of society live in the facility.
Under current land use regulations, the RDOS board would have to approve a rezoning application by the OIB to convert the residence to a halfway house.
At an original public hearing several weeks ago at the Sonora Community Centre in Osoyoos, a few adjacent property owners voiced concerns about the halfway house, with the vast majority stating they weren’t against the concept of a halfway house for aboriginal offenders, but many stating they were strongly opposed to its location due to its close proximity to residential homes.
At its last meeting, the RDOS board voted in favour of holding a second public hearing after it was discovered property owners in the Spirit Ridge condominium and townhouse development owned and operated by the OIB had not been given proper notice about the first public hearing, said RDOS vice-chair and Osoyoos representative Mark Pendergraft.
“We discovered no notice was given to the owners of property in the Spirit Ridge condominium units and the board didn’t think that was right considering how close the proposed halfway house would be to those units,” said Pendergraft.
“We (the board) wanted to do it right, so we’ve decided to hold the second public hearing. We would rather hold a second public hearing and get it right rather than have it overturned in court if there was an appeal. Why take the risk is what it comes down to.”
When asked if opposition is growing to the halfway house proposal, Pendergraft said the reality is a lot of people in this community don’t have sufficient information and that’s another reason a second public hearing is taking place.
“I don’t know if you would call it opposition, but there are some people who are still not sure what’s being proposed or how things would work,” said Pendergraft. “There were a lot of people who own units in Spirit Ridge who were not made aware of this proposal for a halfway house or didn’t’ know about the first public hearing and that’s why the RDOS board supports a second hearing, so these people will have a chance to get the information they need.
“These people have a right to have some input for sure.”
If the RDOS board eventually votes to refuse the rezoning application, Pendergraft said OIB management, including Chief Louie, have made it very clear they intend on proceeding with the halfway house sooner or later.
“I fully expect they will to ahead with a proposal to add this residence to the current reserve,” said Pendergraft. “Adding land to reserve is a long process and takes some time, but that’s an option I personally believe they (OIB) will go after no matter what our board decides.”
However, as things stand now, the RDOS board believes a second public hearing is needed and he looks forward to hearing what supporters and those against the halfway house have to say, said Pendergraft.
The second public hearing is set for 7 p.m. once again at the Sonora Community Centre.
Chief Louie did not return calls from the Osoyoos Times before Tuesday’s press deadline.