My name is Steve Brandel, I've been a resident of Rutland for more than 20 years and I have served this community in the public service for just as long with most of my service in the Rutland area starting in 2000.
I'd like to go on record and clear up some misconceptions about Rutland in order to try and move forward to get some answers as to why a welfare office ended up in the heart of our (neighbourhood).
My experience (in Rutland) was the complete opposite of what the perception seems to be about (the area) being a rough neighbourhood with drug addicts and thieves. Although I left the industry during the earlier stages of the opioid crisis, overdoses were very rare here and seeing a homeless person was unheard of unless you were downtown.
I've written to, and received responses from, both the Uptown Rutland Business Association (URBA) and local MLA Rene Merrifield’s offices. Both generally say the same thing, the property was purchased by the provincial government in 2020 and it did not communicate with any stakeholders in the area.
So who is the one who looked at the site and said it checked all the boxes for a welfare office? (Premier David) Eby is the person I want to speak to to get answers and to see the criteria used for the site selection.
Let me tell you, we in Rutland have accepted more than our share of this burden. It started when city planners thought (Rutland) would be a prime location to bulldoze an old church and turn it into a “wet” supportive housing facility, which happens to sit one block from a middle school, a high school and not far from an elementary school.
Even though 14,000 people signed a petition on behalf of the kids near this (planed) facility, city planners maintained it was an optimal site to treat addicts and let them (use drugs) onsite.
Let me remind you, no liquor establishment or cannabis retailer would be allowed next to schools.
Shortly after that, (I may be slightly off on my timelines) city planners thought it would be perfect to put another supportive housing building almost right across the street from the (newly revovated) Centennial Park and next door to the busiest commercial zone in our area, at the corner of Rutland Road and Highwy 33.
Shortly after that, another supportive facility was put just west of the Rutland firehall and right across the street from Centennial Park and the basketball courts.
That was a great area where my son enjoyed playing basketball until the facility opened and now he says he does not want to walk near the place due to the unpredictable nature of the people who now frequent the area.
During most of this timeframe, the Rutland branch of Interior Health decided it would be a great place to put a mobile safe injection site, even though it was next door to our shopping mall and a grocery store and there were no addicts walking around at the time.
That brought more and more addicts out this way and Rutland’s Lions Park started to become a homeless hangout and the mall had to hire security guards.
Now we have the welfare office and I'd like to take this to the next level to get some answers about what has amounted to the outright punishment of Rutland residents with no regard for our community, our safety and our property values.
We have tried to use safety (as an argument) in the past but it seems there are no concerns by any level of government for addressing that issue. Do we have to turn to Kelowna's Official Community Plan that the city holds like a gold medal in times of development, but disappears when zoning for supportive services?
I can promise you the zoning for this area would not be logical for a welfare office and would not be considered if brought to council.
(To the premier I say) Mr. Eby, you have no idea how large of an atomic bomb you just dropped on Kelowna's most affordable and family friendly neighbourhood, and we will not go away until you reveal the documents where it shows all the boxes were checked (making this) a perfect location for a welfare office.
I will remind you our community has accepted more than our share of these destructive facilities and they have already transformed neighbourhoods where children won't go and the RCMP now frequent on a regular basis.
Please reach out to me if you have any concerns, suggestions, or information. You can reach me at [email protected].