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Chilliwack council to consider creating special zone to regulate overdose prevention sites

New zone will ensure no one sets up facility here ‘without council and community input,’ says mayor
Overdose prevention sites have drug checking services and supplies like sterile needles available. (Maple Ridge News file)

City council is creating a new P7 zone, to set the stage for dealing with potential overdose prevention site applications.

Before Christmas council directed staff to draft a new zone to regulate overdose prevention sites (OPS) within the City of Chilliwack. It was a late item added to the Dec. 1 council agenda, and it passed unanimously.

Now staff has come back with a draft P7 zone, to regulate “specialized medical services” which are defined as, but not limited to: “overdose prevention sites, detoxification centres and needle distribution/return facilities.”

“Creating a new zone to prepare for future zoning requests is something council has done successfully in the past,” Mayor Ken Popove said.

He gave the example of Chilliwack’s cannabis retail C9 zone, drafted as the federal government was in the process of legalizing retail cannabis.

RELATED: Creating a C9 zone in 2018 to get ready

The C9 zone included a 300-metre separation buffer from a range of sites and institutions with vulnerable populations, like schools, daycares, and supportive housing.

“Similarly, we want to proactively create a zone for specialized medical service uses. This will ensure that an applicant cannot locate a facility without council and community input,” Popove underlined.

READ MORE: Frustration over The Portal boiled over DT

“As Fraser Health works to provide additional detox and overdose prevention services in the Fraser Valley, it makes sense for council to take a proactive approach to creating zones for specialized medical services.”

Across B.C there were 11 supervised consumption sites and 21 overdose prevention sites in operation as of last year.

The Feb. 2 staff report on the new P7 zone for Chilliwack says the services are meant to be “ancillary” to a hospital or medical clinic:

“By creating the P7 Zone, a rezoning application will be required in order to facilitate the operation of any Specialized Medical Service use, unless located within a hospital.

In that way rezoning “will allow for public consultation” to weigh the suitability of a proposed location, as well as giving council the authority to approve any proposed locations on a case-by-case basis, the report continued.

There are several established OPS sites run by provincial health authorities with community partners across B.C. including in Surrey, Abbotsford and Maple Ridge.

“These designated spaces, which are integrated into existing social service or health care settings or in newly established locations, provide on-site monitoring for people at risk of overdose and allow for rapid response when an overdose occurs,” according to the Government of BC website on OPS.

“While supervised consumption services require municipalities to seek an exemption from federal drug laws, the same process is not required to establish an overdose prevention site.”

At the Feb. 16 meeting, council will be voting on the proposed new P7 zone, and the related sections of the zoning bylaw, so any written comments from the public must be received the day before, Feb. 15, at 4 p.m. at clerk’s office.

The public can provide written submissions by mail or drop off to - Corporate Services Department, City of Chilliwack, 8550 Young Rd, Chilliwack BC V2P 8A4 - Email – with contact information, including full name and address should be included with the submission.

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Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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