The construction of a new provincially-funded daycare facility in a Lavington park will continue as planned despite a petition with more than 180 signatures urging the District of Coldstream to stop.
Residents, from Lavington, Coldstream and beyond, who signed the petition said they are not against the addition of a new childcare facility, but rather the location council chose to erect it.
The district announced in April it was awarded a $637,800 grant from the province’s Childcare BC New Spaces Fund to build the facility that will open 32 new spots for children between 0-12. But residents voiced their protest against it eating up invaluable green space.
Around 20 area residents were waiting outside council chambers Monday, Aug. 24, to hear what council had to say about the future of Lavington Centennial Park, however due to COVID-19 protocols, sitting room inside was limited to around seven members of the public.
Two members of the public raised several safety concerns about the location of the facility slated for a small parcel in the north-east corner of Lavington Park facing School Road near Lavington Elementary.
Among them, speaker Dave Pope, who chained himself to a tree when crews began working to clear the area for construction Aug. 6, said the proximity to the rail line could cause injury to children who rely on hearing aids and cochlear implants.
Pope referred to guidelines established by CN Rail and urged council to have vibration and sound inspections completed before moving ahead with construction.
“The location of the daycare discriminates against any child with hearing impairments,” Pope said.
Coun. Ruth Hoyte said she appreciates Pope’s passion on the safety concerns raised, but said parents will look for the location and programming that ensures their children will have their needs met.
“If a daycare doesn’t meet all the needs, they may wait or choose to go to another location that does,” Hoyte said. “I don’t believe this daycare will be exclusive… a parent knows their child the best and they’d do what’s best or they’ll look for other alternatives.”
Pope said Lavington’s daycare needs are currently being met by a private facility and as the new centre does not guarantee priority to local residents. He suggested parents on Maven Lane’s waitlist from Armstrong, Vernon and West Coldstream may fill the Lavington daycare adding traffic on School Road.
Coun. Doug Dirk said this is a hypothetical situation and in another, the provincial grant — which Coldstream was awarded early on — “may create enough spaces in Vernon, Armstrong and areas that would eliminate all the traffic you proposed.”
“The realities right now will not be the realities moving forward,” Dirk said. “It’s very possible that the people using the childcare spaces in Lavington will be local people.
“Traffic concerns are real concerns that can be mitigated,” Dirk added.
Council also addressed the public’s concerns around lack of consultation.
Coun. Stephanie Hoffman reminded those in attendance consultation occurred two years ago in 2018 following the district’s investigation into the community’s childcare needs.
“I’m not sure if the community knows of the the lengthy processes involved to make decisions,” Hoffman said. “There were many opportunities for community engagement during the process… it’s a matter of being informed by watching the website for agendas.
“It kind of bothers me somewhat when I hear the comments that, ‘we haven’t been consulted,’” she said. “It should come down to community members making the effort to be informed.”
Hoffman said most of the information the “majority of petitioners” are going on is what they’ve heard on social media and it’s misinformed. She noted she only fielded two phone calls from members of the public seeking more information from the source.
Coun. Dirk echoed her sentiments and asked members of the public how they would like to be consulted.
“We’re doing business all the time, we can’t create an online site where everyone weighs in,” he said. “That’s why we’re elected.
“You have representatives, talk to them and they can advocate for your concerns.”
Mayor Jim Garlick said the clock on construction started ticking when the district was awarded the grant and the COVID-19 pandemic halted further public consultation efforts.
Council moved to accept the petition as information and post the history of the purchase and donation of the park online. Construction of the 100 per cent funded buildout of the daycare centre will continue as planned.