Riverview could be a sanctum for mental health and wellness, social housing and more, BC Housing told Coquitlam council Monday — but councillors were skeptical.
The province has charged BC Housing with creating a vision for the future of the Riverview lands through a series of meetings with stakeholders, city councils and health authorities.
Shayne Ramsay, CEO of BC Housing, gave a presentation to council Monday afternoon.
“I think the most important [thing] is, I want to assure council Riverview is not a part of the province’s surplus assets disposal program,” Ramsay said.
Coquitlam-Maillardville MLA Selina Robinson and city council have pointed to the lack of grounds keeping on the Riverview site, calling it “demolition by neglect,” and said they are worried the province is doing this intentionally because it’s planning on selling the lands off.
However, Ramsay said that is not the case and the Riverview grounds will be kept intact.
“There will be the same amount of open space as there is now,” he said. “Development will happen within the existing footprint.”
Coun. Terry O’Neill praised the commitment of the province to maintain the current landscape, stating that was a major concern for him.
“That’s something we should be celebrating today,” O’Neill said.
However, he questioned a core concept of the plan, which is that whatever is developed must break even when it comes to costs and revenues.
“For example, if social housing is put on it, is there going to have to be something on the site that pays for the social housing?” O’Neill asked.
Ramsay said capital costs, not ongoing operational costs, must break even, no matter what is developed.
O’Neill asked for specific examples, but Ramsay said it’s too early in the process to give any.
Coun. Mae Reid also expressed concern over the “break-even context,” stating the model doesn’t apply to mental-health buildings.
“Those aren’t break-even buildings,” she said. “But those are buildings we’re going to need for the next 100 years.”
She was also worried about the current state of the lands, calling it “offensive” and saying something needs to be done sooner rather than later.
“We’re going to sit here for another few years and the buildings are going to rot more, and the trees are going to fall down,” she said.
Coun. Brent Asmundson said it’s great the province is talking about this, but there’s a lack of trust from the public when it comes to Riverview.
“To me, forgetting whatever government was in power, we have not maintained and kept Riverview or the buildings there or the grounds at the highest standard,” Asmundson said. “Put the money and investment back in showing you care. If it stays the way it is, it shows you don’t care about the site, you only care about the land value that’s there.”
Mayor Richard Stewart said planning needs to be done in consultation with every stakeholder, because Riverview is more than just a plot of land.
“Riverview lands are extremely precious to Coquitlam, to our residents, to so many groups in Coquitlam,” he said. “We will collaborate, but we want you, as well as the province, to understand how precious, how important, this is to us.”
BC Housing could not give a time frame for how long the pre-planning process will take, but said it will be meeting with all those affected, beginning this week in Coquitlam.
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