The Coalition for the Preservation of the Hope Station House has filed a complaint to the Office of the B.C. Ombudsperson against the District of Hope, claiming unfair treatment and a lack of transparency when making decisions on the Hope Station House.
Hope CAO John Fortoloczky confirmed the district awarded a contract to demolish the Station House to Summit Earthworks, Inc., and a notice to proceed has also been issued. The exact start date for demolition has not been determined, but the complete date is scheduled for no later than April 30.
“District staff continue to act in accordance with the strict direction as set out by Council,” Fortoloczky said in a brief statement.
The B.C. Ombudsperson investigates complaints from members of the public about government administrations, programs or services, including allegations against former and current provincial government employees.
The five-page letter from Christian Ward on the Coalition’s behalf lists 10 complaints against Council, including claims Council made decisions based on and distributing inaccurate information, neglecting to apply for grants to renovate the building and a failure to maintain the building while it was under their care.
“We…believe we have been treated unfairly,” the letter reads. “In making this decision the District of Hope is erasing important local and provincial history, not representing the 2,173 people that our Coalition represents, and furthermore they are turning their back on the potential economic, financial, environmental and societal gains from renovating and repurposing a heritage building for tourism purposes.”
The 2,173 people Ward refers to in the complaint letter is the number of signatures gathered on a petition to save the Station House, which was launched via the website SumOfUs late last year.
With notes of reluctance, the District of Hope council unanimously passed a resolution during their Feb. 22 meeting that the demolition of the Station House proceed as planned, denying the request for a stay of demolition. During this same meeting, the Coalition presented their most recent findings to district officials, including possible funding streams and potential economic benefits via tourism.
The Coalition seeks the following action from Council:
1. An immediate stay of demolition.
2. An opportunity to engage in discussion with the Council about their research and ideas.
3. That the council works with the province to extend the lease on the land to allow time for options to be explored
4. That the District abides by the agreement to maintain and operate the Station house for the community’s benefit.
Ward told The Standard the complaint – marked urgent – has been passed on to the Ombudsperson’s investigative team.
The Hope Station House is one of two remaining historic buildings in the district and the last of three station houses that once stood in the immediate area surrounding Hope.