District settles with province for $650,000, ownership of station house transfers

Province gauging Chawathil First Nation’s interest in running station house

The fate of Hope’s station house is still up in the air, however the district no longer owns it and more clarity around the future of the historic building will come by the end of 2020.

Hope’s Mayor Peter Robb confirmed the district has settled with the province after negotiations with the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI), with the district receiving $650,000 “for them holding us up and not dealing with the station house.”

In April 2018, the district learned plans to transfer the land the station house stood on to the municipality would not happen as the ministry had failed to engage in the required consultation with First Nations with historical ties and claims to the area.

The mayor of the day Wilfried Vicktor said while he wasn’t attempting to villainize the ministry, “obviously they did fumble the ball. Hopefully they will do what is right here soon.”

Vicktor said the district insisted on reimbursement of the funds already spent on the project and reserved the right to launch civil action if an agreement couldn’t be reached.

The district has spent money on architectural drawings, as well as cost estimates for the renovation of the building. What exactly the district has spent on the station house cannot be shared publicly, chief administrative officer John Fortoloczky stated, as those numbers are part of a legal process.

Read more: Ministry ‘fumbled the ball’ on Station House: Hope mayor

The district came out “way ahead” in the funding they received from the province Robb said, adding he’s comfortable with the outcome of negotiations. These funds are put aside and could go towards a new museum and visitors centre if council and staff find concensus on what such a building could look like he added.

The former tourism centre and museum on Water Avenue will be demolished, with the district putting out a request for a company skilled in removing buildings containing mould and asbestos. The museum artifacts previously stored there have been moved elsewhere.

What will happen at that site is still up to council to decide, a decision a district-wide facilities master plan could assist with Robb said. The district has put out a call for proposals to complete such a plan, with a submission deadline of August 4, 2020.

Read more: District of Hope releases 2019 annual report and ‘to do list’ for 2020

The ministry now owns the station house, Robb said, while also continuing to own the land underneath it at the confluence of Old Hope Princeton Way and Highway 1 (Water Avenue).

“Our responsibility is, if it doesn’t transfer to someone else between now and the end of December, the district is responsible for demolition of the station house,” Robb said.

MOTI are dealing with other parties regarding land development on the lot, Robb confirmed, yet added that this is solely under the purview of the ministry.

While the building doesn’t qualify for heritage status, as it has been moved from its original location, Robb said the ideal outcome would be that the building and the lot is “developed, as soon as possible.”

“That corner is just a main entrance to our community, it needs to be developed,” he said. “There’s lots of ideas out there…to do a cultural center with a partnership with Indigenous groups, I’ve heard condos, I’ve heard hotels, I’ve heard all kinds of different ideas. But that will be up to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, who they partner with or sell it outright. I don’t know what their plans are.”

The ministry declined an interview with the Hope Standard about their plans for the station house and the property, yet in a statement said engagement had been ongoing with Chawathil First Nation about operating the station house.

“The ministry and the District of Hope have been engaging with the Chawathil First Nation to discuss their potential interest in the future operation of the Hope Station House,” the ministry stated. “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, consultation between the Chawathil First Nation and ministry has been put on hold, and will be resumed as soon as possible.”

Chawathil First Nation has the station house on their agenda to discuss at a council meeting next week, Chief Rhoda Peters confirmed. Until this discussion happens, she added, nothing more can be said publicly.

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