Last-minute changes to plans for a $140-million replacement for Oak Bay Lodge proved inadequate for the dozens of neighbours who showed up Tuesday to oppose it at council.
Baptist Housing proposes to replace the current facility with a larger incarnation, to be known as Garry Oaks Village. On Oct. 3, council directed the non-profit social service provider to lessen the impact of the building on immediate neighbours.
In response, Baptist Housing revised the plan for the site, shifting the entire building north by six metres and reconfiguring the four wings of the facility away from Hampshire and Cranmore roads.
“In our discussions at the last committee of the whole meeting, council (asked) if we (reduce) the setback along Cadboro Bay Road could we pull (the building) away from the homes along Hampshire?” said Dayle Krahn, chief property and development officer for Baptist Housing.
“And we said ‘yeah we could.’ We’ve tried to deal with the concerns the residents had before.”
To address traffic concerns, the proposed Cranmore entrance has been designated for emergency vehicles only.
The kitchen was also moved west, away from houses on Hampshire Road.
Moving the building means it will stand slightly shorter than the former proposal – at 44 metres rather than 45 – because the land slopes downward at the site’s north end.
The building would still stand 5.47 m taller than the current lodge – an unacceptable height according to all but one of the speakers at Tuesday night’s meeting.
While most complimented the various changes to the plan, they said they didn’t go far enough.
“Six storeys, and even five, are imposing and seriously impact the neighbourhood,” said Lois Bender, who lives on Cranmore.
“The proposal to increase the number of (complex care) beds to 320 is driving the whole design in an unsuitable way. The result is a towering, massive building envelope (that is) simply too high and too big for this small, oddly shaped piece of property.”
Hampshire resident John Rankin questioned the need for 40 extra beds.
“That number has not been addressed enough,” he said. “That’s why we have a municipal government … Don’t be sidetracked by the rush of the applicant.”
That rush, defined by some at the meeting as a threat, is fueled by the promise of $80 million in upfront financing, pending project approval, explained Rudi van den Broek, chief project officer with the Vancouver Island Health Authority.
Garry Oaks Village, together with the new Mount View Campus of Care in Saanich, will replace 580 of the health authority’s worst complex-care beds, van den Broek said.
“If this portion of the project doesn’t go forward, then the whole thing will be stopped until it can be rebuilt from the ground up. If that involves very much delay at all, then the financing will stop.”
But Coun. Tara Ney questioned why the Saanich facility couldn’t take on more beds, to reduce the number required at the new facility in Oak Bay.
Mount View is slated to have 260 complex care beds in a seven-storey building.
The need to densify found a sympathetic ear with Theatre Alley resident Jim Kirk.
“In urban living, six storeys is not very high,” he said. “The other issue that people are focusing on ad infinitum is density. The babies are born, the people are there, you have to densify. It’s time to grow up.”
Oak Bay council, however, felt the applicant needed to do more to work within the community.
“I think we’re getting closer to the answer,” said Coun. Nils Jensen, who strongly recommended that Baptist Housing engage in consultations with the neighbourhood before returning to council Oct. 24.
He added that unlike other large projects council has dealt with in past, such as the new Oak Bay High, the Oak Bay Beach Hotel and Carlton House seniors complex, the tight timeline puts council under pressure to make a decision.
– with files from Erin Cardone