Groups propose 50+ be converted into a community service hub

Numerous Peachland service groups want to convert the 50 Plus Activity Centre into a community service hub. (File photo)

Joanne Layh

A group representing many of Peachland’s community organizations is proposing that the 50 Plus Activity Centre be converted into a community service hub that would house numerous service groups, including those that will be displaced when the second phase of the Residences on 6th seniors housing is constructed.

Earlier this year the second phase of the Residences on 6th was approved under the BC Housing Community Housing Fund. The Peachland Seniors Support Society (PSSS) plans to construct a 68-unit five-storey phase two building on the District of Peachland-owned property on 5th Street, immediately adjacent to the phase one project.

That means the Peachland Wellness Centre (PWC), Peachland Community Police (also home to the Peachland Lions Club) and the Peachland Food Bank will be displaced to make way for the new structure.

At the last regular council meeting, director of community services Cheryl Wiebe brought forward a report about municipal efforts to relocate the non-profit groups that will be impacted by the seniors housing project and in her report she noted that the district has reached a pinch point in terms of space. She told council that acceptable solutions have been found for the Peachland Food Bank and Peachland Community Police and the PWC is currently working with the PSSS and the consultants for the project to see if they can occupy a space in the new building.

Should an agreement not be made between PSSS and PWC, Wiebe said the district may want to engage a consultant to look to other options, including a core services review to determine what core programs and services should be provided in Peachland facilities as well as a facility program and space planning audit to revisit some lease agreements and consider another model of shared space.

Before discussion could begin about the report, Coun. Patrick Van Minsel asked his council colleagues if they could have an in-camera meeting to discuss the project, which is scheduled to take place next Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Van Minsel facilitated a discussion amongst community groups that led to a proposed solution.  

“As an elected official I believe in communication and going straight to the sources because I need to make decisions for our community. In previous months I was in conversation with different community groups who approached me with some concerns,” Van Minsel told The View. “The recurring thing they talked about was working together but when I asked them, ‘do you speak with each other all together and meet?’ they said, no, they didn’t really do that.”

Van Minsel said he organized the meeting so the community groups could have a discussion amongst themselves and find common ground.

“I’m a firm believer in partnerships, communication and working together. That’s the only way you can get things done,” said Van Minsel. “They all agreed as a unit it would be way easier for them to fundraise for the building and a lot of our community groups have opportunities to get money, so they were very enthusiastic at the end of the meeting and they decided to use Peachland Community Connects as the vehicle that would be their spokesperson.”

In a letter dated Dec. 6, Shelley Sweeney, the chair of Peachland Community Connects, wrote to Peachland’s mayor and council on behalf of all represented groups asking for their support in converting the 50 Plus Activity Centre into a community service hub.

“We understand that council is meeting to try and solve this situation, however we thought we would meet as a group to discuss a way to find space and assist council with a solution,” wrote Sweeney. 

In her letter Sweeney said the groups that were represented and are in support of this initiative include the Peachland Lions Club, Peachland Wellness Centre, Peachland Food Bank, Peachland Community Connects, Peachland & District Retirement Society (operators of the 50 Plus Activity Centre), the Bat Education and Ecological Protection Society (BEEPS), and Peachland Chamber of Commerce.

The Peachland Ambassadors, Peachland Sportsman Association, Peachland Rotary, Okanagan Folk School and Peachland Little Schoolhouse were also included in the meeting.

“After some discussion, it was determined that the preference of the group was to create and build a community service hub. The size of the building would need to be between 6,000 – 7,000 square feet which would consist of separate offices and shared space,” writes Sweeney. “The inclusion of the community gardens would also be a good fit. The conclusion reached by all was that the Peachland & District Retirement Society structure would be the best building choice.”

As the current building needs extensive repairs, the group is proposing that an assessment be done to determine which would be the best way this could be accomplished, said Sweeney. 

She noted a renovation and addition on the current building is one option, but if the state of the building has deteriorated too much then rebuilding would be the next logical choice. 

As the 50 Plus Activity Centre is a district-owned building, the group are requesting Peachland council support the project by providing the necessary land and waiving fees and DCC charges, while retaining ownership of the building.

“We know that this will be a costly project. We feel it would be achievable with a true collaborative fundraising and grant application approach which could include net zero energy building grant capabilities as well. With so many disparate groups with different objectives and services, funding in the way of grants should be much easier to attain,” says Sweeney. “Timing is critical. It takes time to write and get a response on grants and in that context, two years is not long. With your assistance and support we can build a community asset that will serve the groups and citizens of Peachland for future generations.”

Sweeney said everyone in attendance was excited about the possibility of this project and the ability to work together to see this become a reality.

Gwen Bodnarek, president of the Peachland and District Retirement Society, told the View her board is “totally on board with working together for the good of the community and working with all of the community groups.”

“We’ll work with all of the organizations to raise money, however we have to do it,” Bodnarek said. “We want to work for everyone . . . we’re all there for the common goal. I came out of that meeting feeling so much better about being the president of the 50 Plus and being involved. It was a feel good moment for me.”

Kym Martin, president of the Peachland Wellness Centre, said her organization is extremely excited about the idea.

“We see it as a vibrant, living community hub where there can be a mix of intergenerational activity and a one stop shop for all Peachlanders to come in and service groups to work together,” Martin told the View

Martin said the PSSS has been very gracious at working with the wellness centre to accommodate all of their needs, but the challenge for her organization in partnering with the PSSS in their new building is it would leave them to fundraise on their own, while fundraising for the hub project would be shared. 

“There is so much we could do together in one space. It’s very, very exciting,” said Martin. “I see it as being such a positive thing for the community, not just the organizations involved, but for the community. That to me is what’s most exciting about it. There’s no cost to taxpayers. There are just so many good things about this proposal.”

Sweeney’s letter to the mayor and council was drafted to determine if there is a political willingness to support the idea. Peachland council will be asked to receive the letter for information at Tuesday night’s council meeting.

“It will be up to the council, myself and my colleagues, to decide if this is something we would consider,” said Van Minsel. 

 

 

 

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