Photo: Wayne Moore
Part of the overflow gallery attending Tuesday's controversial public hearing.
"I am prepared to lose votes, I am prepared to lose friends, because I believe that this is what's best for our community.
"I will stand up for that, and I will look anyone in the eye in regards to that because that is what is best for our community."
With that, Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran cast the final affirmative vote as city council approved rezoning and OCP amendments for a four-storey supportive housing project in Rutland for men recovering from addictions.
The vote was 6-3 in favour, with councillors Charlie Hodge, Brad Sieben and Mohini Singh voting against.
"I want to thank my council colleagues for supporting this, because that has taken a lot of political courage for you to do that in light of all of the things that have been said here tonight," added Basran.
A lot was said during an emotionally charged public hearing attended by upwards of 300 people who packed council chambers and spilled out into the foyer Tuesday night.
Sixty people took to the microphone to say their piece, 35 of those against the project at McCurdy and Rutland roads, many of whom live in the neighbourhood.
Some noted there are four schools within a short distance of the apartment building, while others said they are concerned for their children's safety with "those people" around.
One resident who lives next to the property said nobody wants this in their neighbourhood and that the project was getting shoved down their throats.
Others told individual councillors if anything happens, "it's on their head."
Several of those who spoke in favour have a direct connection with Freedom's Door, the recovery house that will operate the facility. They applauded the program and the men who voluntarily enter it.
They stated the men wanted to clean up and stay sober.
While most people spoke about the program's clients in a positive or negative light, it was zoning and land use, not occupancy, that council had to decide.
Coun. Luke Stack said he had no issue with the location or the size, saying it makes sense to him. But, he did read an email that challenged him to make a decision.
"If you can look me in the eye and honestly tell me you would be OK with this building right in the path of your children or your grandchildren, then go ahead and pass it," Stack read.
"I reflected on that, and I can honestly say I can look this woman in the eye and say I am OK with this."
The three who voted against felt the building is not in the right location.
Sieben called this the most difficult decision he has encountered on council.
He said the project is part of the solution, not the problem, adding the city has a lot of drug issues that lead to crime.
While those in the gallery were vehemently opposed, councillors pointed to the Cardington Apartments on St. Paul and a NOW Canada complex on Tutt Street across from Raymer Elementary.
There was strong opposition to both and, by all accounts, there have been no issues at either.