Victoria – Following a recent investigation into the process that led to a decision to demolish a historic train station in Hope, B.C., the provincial Ombudsperson is underscoring the need for local governments to obtain and carefully consider all relevant information before making potentially irreversible decisions.
The Ombudsperson’s office recently investigated a complaint from a member of the Coalition for the Preservation of the Hope Station House. The person complained that, among other things, the District of Hope had unfairly dismissed proposals to save the historic train station from pending demolition.
Given the imminent destruction of the building, the Ombudsperson conducted an expedited investigation that determined the District’s decision to demolish the building was made without considering all available options. In making the decision to tear down the station, Council was presented with two options – to either demolish the building, or transfer title to a local First Nation. However, Council was not presented with a third option of moving the building. The Ombudsperson’s investigation also noted the District did not adequately consider the building’s heritage status when making its initial decision.
“Our investigation revealed flaws in the District’s process,” said Ombudsperson Jay Chalke. “When we brought those problems to the District’s attention they swiftly took steps; first to postpone the demolition and then to set the decision aside and reconsider their approach. I am encouraged that they are initiating a new more fair process that will determine the fate of this building.”
The District has agreed not to demolish the building at this time and to reconsider the issue. The District has now initiated a new decision-making process that will determine the fate of the building. Recently, a stop work order has been issued by the Heritage Branch of the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.
“The broader lesson this investigation highlights is that when a public body has to choose a course of action from various options, fairness demands decision-makers are aware of all available choices,” said Chalke. “If our governments don’t know of, and properly consider, the options, they can’t show they acted fairly.”