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BEPPLE: The political stew that is Kamloops

Image Credit: Compilation/Jennifer Stahn
June 10, 2016 - 11:59 AM

 


OPINION


A little bit of chicken, a little bit of wine, and voila, you have the start of coq au vin, one of my favourite recipes. There are many different versions of the recipe, but at the end of the day, if you have chicken, wine and a few spices, you can make a delicious dish without too much trouble.

If only things were so simple in politics. But lately, Kamloops city council has been in a stew about chickens and wine. The local winemakers are in a flap over not being able to sell their wares in local grocery stores. The chicken owners are waiting to see if council will let hens roost in Kamloops backyards. The supporters of both groups are getting more and more vocal — almost as loud as the morning doves that wake us all every morning.

Chickens and wine are important, and I understand people’s concern over both. And I understand the vigilance of council to have order in the city, to ensure there are proper wine and chicken rules in place. But as Kamloops city council gets mired in their current coq au vin political stew, there are bigger issues looming.

Coming down the pipe in Kamloops is what will happen to all of the low income folks and university students and such when thousands of workers come to town to build Kinder Morgan’s pipeline. Yes, I know the debate on the pipeline's not over, but for myself, I think we need to start planning to make sure the folks that call Kamloops home don't get displaced. Just look at what happened in places like Kitimat to see how, even when accommodations for construction workers are provided, the locals can get squeezed.

In Kitimat, during the construction at Alcan, locals got squeezed out of the market as highly paid workers came to town. The local college was also affected as students stopped coming because of lack of accommodations. Skyrocketing rents, illegal rent increases, illegal evictions and people living in every possible space available were reported. For example, advertisement for one suite increased from $425 a month to $3,200 a month in one and a half years.

In Kamloops, the pending pipeline, and the possible mine, mean that our city faces its own housing issues.

So when Kamloops city council squashed a 21-unit multifamily development in the 200-block of Battle Street in April after neighbours opposed, it made me worried. Those 21 units would have created places for 21 singles or families to live. It would seem creating more housing isn’t top of mind for council. Luckily, council has agreed to a second public hearing so the developer can address neighbours’ concerns. Time will tell whether the application will proceed.

Coming down the pipe is a public hearing for a rezoning application for more multifamily residential for the empty lot next to the Doubletree Hotel at St Paul Street and 3rd Avenue, just a block away from the previously rejected rezoning in the 200-block of Battle. Will city council oppose this rezoning as well?

Developers are seeing the potential of building more multifamily and affordable housing in Kamloops. Now council needs to decide if it wants to allow more housing to be built.

Having enough housing for folks is important for everyone, not just the people living in it. Tent cities, students leaving to study in other cheaper cities, and working poor pushed further into poverty are all possibilities here in Kamloops. It’s happened in Kitimat. There are problems in Victoria.

Housing or the lack of it, is a far bigger issue than chickens or wine in Kamloops. I'm not worried about the chickens, and I’m not worried about the wine, but I do think we should all think more about building more affordable housing in Kamloops. And, rather than cooking up a coq au vin stew, I’d like city council to focus on the bigger issues, like housing.

— Nancy Bepple is a recovering politician and local news junkie. She expects she will never recover from her love of the banjo.


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