The District of Houston has agreed to lease enough land at $1 a year for 20 years to the Dze L’Kant Friendship Centre Society so it can build a daycare centre.
Approval came at the District council’s July 18 council meeting and is in time for a July 31 deadline for the agreement to be included in an application made by the friendship centre for $4 million to the Aboriginal Head Start Association of British Columbia.
The location is right beside the Houston Retirement Society’s Pleasant Valley Village complex on 11th St. and is part of just over 13 acres purchased by the District of Houston last year.
District chief administrative officer Michael Dewar told council the agreement gives the friendship centre the certainty it needs in its bid for financing.
“And both groups are committed to work together to refine the site details and the design for it,” he added of the daycare building’s exact size and site requirements.
The property is now zoned multi-family residential and a daycare facility is among permitted uses.
Dewar did add that consultants who looked over the site did recommend the District protect a road right-of-way to the remainder of the 13 acres once an exact size of the leased property is determined.
That’s because the remainder of the property is not accessible from other directions.
And Dewar noted the resolution presented to council includes wording that another mutually agreeable location could also be sought.
The District purchased the 13-plus acres last August for $229,900.
Councillor Rebecca Hougen asked if the next-door seniors facility was asked for its opinion.
“Staff has contacted the Houston Retirement Association and they were very strong proponents of moving forward with this. They see a lot of opportunity for the betterment of their residences,” said Dewar.
The Dze L’Kant Friendship Centre’s daycare plan for Houston would see it build a facility suitable for a blend of care options ranging from care during the day for newborns and up, to before and after school care, to pre-school and even 24-hour care for parents who work outside of regular working hours.
Included in the centre’s plans is a course based in Houston to train daycare workers.
General plans are to prepare for construction this year and to start construction in 2024 for a finishing date of Spring 2026.
Dze L’Kant also wants to build a similar daycare centre in either Telkwa or Smithers.
At first, Dze L’Kant was told there was money for just one daycare, meaning it would have to choose between Houston or Telkwa/Smithers.
But then it was told there was sufficient financing to build two daycares and that jump-started discussions with the District of Houston for a suitable location with the downtown area of the community.
The daycare is one of two major projects on Dze L’Kant’s list for Houston with the other being a replacement for its building here.
That structure is being financed by approximately $5 million in federal and provincial grants.