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New Comox Valley hospital proposal proceeding to public hearing

THIS ARTIST RENDERING shows what the Comox Valley Hospital could look like. However, it is a conception only and not indicative of the final design. - Photo submitted
THIS ARTIST RENDERING shows what the Comox Valley Hospital could look like. However, it is a conception only and not indicative of the final design.
— image credit: Photo submitted

The Comox Valley Hospital project passed its first hurdle at the City of Courtenay.

Applications to amend Courtenay's Official Community Plan and rezone the land slated for the new Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) hospital — at Ryan and Lerwick Roads — came before council at Monday's meeting.

Council voted unanimously in favour of moving forward to a public hearing, which will be held Tuesday, Nov. 27 at 7 p.m. at the Florence Filberg Centre conference hall.

Coun. Jon Ambler noted the decision was a weighty one for council.

"Tonight we're not making decisions for the City of Courtenay; we're actually making a decision for the entire Comox Valley, and that weighs heavy because these decisions should not come lightly," said Ambler.

Coun. Doug Hillian said he's keen to hear what the public has to say, including its concerns, at the meeting.

"I'm certainly prepared to go with an open mind to the public hearing and let people, who have strong views one way or the other, come forward," said Hillian, adding "that's part of the democratic process, and we all make our decisions at the end of the day based on what we hear from the public and how we view this issue."

North Island Hospitals Project chief project officer Tom Sparrow and senior transportation consultant Peter Kortegast presented project information to council as a delegation.

The lengthy Comox Valley Hospital rezoning application — including various studies like a transportation impact assessment, geotechnical assessment, and site servicing report — is posted on the City's website at www.courtenay.ca under the Hospital Project tab for public perusal.

The site slated for the hospital is 13.5 acres, made up of just over 11 acres of North Island College land and just over 2.3 acres of City-owned land.

Sparrow noted the Request for Proposals (RFP) should go out early next year with a move-in date of spring or summer 2017.

The hospital is expected to hold 153 beds, mostly in private rooms, by 2025/2026, as well as MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) service.

According to a City staff report, the rezoning would allow for a building height of 40 metres (over 130 feet) "to give project proponents flexibility in building design."

Kortegast noted 40 bicycle parking spaces are planned, including 20 for hospital staff and 20 for the public. He also said the plan includes 790 vehicle parking spaces.

"The parking is going to be pay parking on-site, but the agreement from VIHA is we want to provide and meet the full demand we expect on the site to reduce the risk of overflow parking," added Kortegast.

Kortegast also pointed out traffic studies show the Ryan and Lerwick roads area will likely have traffic issues in the future, by about 2026. But he noted the issues mainly relate to "background traffic," which means traffic growth in the City unrelated to the hospital project.

Sparrow spoke about the importance of community engagement, noting concerns have come at the public information sessions so far.

"I have to say that there have been some questions, of course, and it's good that we're having those public consultations," said Sparrow. "We will continue to do that actually, on a quarterly basis on this project between now and move-in — it's something I strongly believe in. And we're also arranging to meet with the principal and director of operations with the School District Friday."

During a Board of Education meeting in the spring trustees noted some concerns around building a hospital so close to Queneesh Elementary School, which is on Mission Road off Lerwick Road.

Sparrow noted a neighbourhood meeting will be scheduled for sometime in the next couple of weeks. And he said the community will have a chance to provide input into the design process at the beginning of next year.

"We will invite the folks that are bidding on this work to meet with the planning departments and the community over the first few months of the, what we call a Request for Proposal aspect of the project, so that they can hear directly from the community on any issues or concerns they might have and incorporate those into the design as well," said Sparrow.

When Hillian pointed out some residents are still concerned the chosen site for the hospital is not the best, Sparrow noted the site was the second on a list of 12 — the first choice at Crown Isle was scrapped due to building height restrictions.

The site at Lerwick and Ryan Roads "is probably the most centrally located site in the community. It's adjacent to the best intersection you have in this community," he said, adding there is room for growth for an extended period of 50 years.

For more information visit Courtenay's hospital page at www.courtenay.ca or visit VHIA's website www.viha.ca and search for North Island Hospitals Project.

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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