Plans to build a new seniors care home in Oak Bay are “being rushed through,” said a neighbour to the site.
John Rankin, who lives on Hampshire Road and shares a property line with Oak Bay Lodge said he and nearby residents are upset at the speed with which the proposal to replace the Lodge with a new facility has moved through the process.
“The first public meeting was in September, and here we are Oct. 24 and they have gone to the notice period so it could be approved by Nov. 14,” he said.
Rankin was at Monday night’s council meeting, where Baptist Housing again presented revised plans for Garry Oak Village, which would accommodate 40 more residents than Oak Bay Lodge.
The proposed building is twice the current facility’s square footage, and at six storeys is 5.47 metres taller at its highest point than the Lodge.
The new plan eliminates previous concerns over on-street parking by moving parking onto the property, closes access to the facility from Cranmore Road – a safety concern – and makes all access via Cadboro Bay Road, except for emergency vehicles.
Baptist Housing reconfigured its design of the site to move the building farther north and away from adjoining properties along Hampshire Road. The kitchen was also moved to alleviate neighbour concerns.
Earlier this month, the non-profit housing provider indicated a desire to earn council approval for the project by Oct. 24 in order to secure financing. On Tuesday, however, Baptist Housing CEO Howard Johnson said Nov. 14, the date the plans come back to council, would be fine as well.
“Hindsight is always wonderful, but at the time, we had checked what the process and procedure would be for a variance (permit),” he said. “This has not followed the process for a normal variance, because there was a thought there should be much more public consultation.”
Variance permits call for less public consultation than applications requiring rezoning. The Garry Oaks Village project did not need rezoning since the land use would be the same as Oak Bay Lodge.
Official public notice of the proposal will be given before the Nov. 14 meeting, when council is expected to vote on the application. While no more public meetings are scheduled, residents can still write to or call councillors with feedback before the vote.
Coun. Tara Ney said Tuesday the community should have had more back-and-forth with the developer and with council for the project.
“(Council) felt that this is one of the largest projects Oak Bay has ever seen,” she said. “It’s $80 million. We’ve had six weeks to make a decision with a timeline, with a risk of losing this because of financing. To me, a project of this scale, of this importance for our community – I felt pinned in a corner to make a decision here.”
The revisions made strike the right balance between neighbours’ comfort and the kind of facility Garry Oaks Village should be, Coun. John Herbert said.
“My opinion is, you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t, and the community benefit outweighs annoying the 20 or so (adjacent neighbours).”