Comox Valley Record

Speakers explore pros and cons of new Comox Valley hospital

Of those expressing their opinions Tuesday night about the proposed zoning amendment for the development of the new Comox Valley hospital, a slight majority were opposed.

Courtenay council heard from about two dozen people at the Filberg Centre.

They commented about a 2.37-acre playing field site owned by the City facing Lerwick Road and an 11.17-acre portion of the North Island College campus. An Official Community Plan amendment and rezoning, respectively, would be required for the development of the 153-bed hospital at that site.

The facility is expected to cost about $334 million and be completed in 2017. It will be jointly funded by the provincial government (60 per cent) and the Comox-Strathcona Regional Hospital District (40 per cent).

"This is the most important institutional addition in many years," said Courtenay resident George Aldcroft. "The $800,000 from VIHA that the City is getting (from the sale of the city property) for future parks is a winning solution for all parties."

Money from the sale of the Courtenay-owned land to the Vancouver Island Health Authority would be used toward a regional playing field for the entire Comox Valley to use, according to a report to Courtenay council earlier this month from City director of legislative services Peter Crawford.

The land sale would officially go through only after the rezoning process is complete.

Muir Road resident Tom Witty expressed concerns about the "totally unsatisfactory site for a district hospital."

He said the land area is too small for parking and future expansion, and the infrastructure support would be a significant future burden for taxpayers of the city.

Some residents, including a physician/surgeon who works at St. Joseph's General Hospital in Comox and the Campbell River Hospital concurred with Witty, and reminded council, "Your decision must not remain political, but what is best for the patient."

Others expressed concerns around traffic, the impact on future growth of the college, loss of green space and trees and the proximity to Queneesh Elementary School.

"The size of the lot is too small," said Dave Ogilvy. "Costco looks like it has a larger lot. There's not enough room for growth for the hospital or the college."

A group of Tamarack Drive residents, including Bev Skwernuik who began a petition opposing the rezoning, also expressed their concerns.

Some supporters of the amendments commented the process of constructing a regional hospital is not going to happen, and although there never will be a perfect situation, the project needs to move forward.

"The ship has sailed a long time ago. We're not going to be getting a regional hospital," noted Art Meyers. "We wanted a race horse and we ended up with a camel, and now we have to run with it."

Bob Mortimer said he's placing his trust in VIHA and their planners, while Bruce Muir and Comox Valley Regional District Area B Director Jim Gillis urged council to move forward as quickly as possible.

"There is never going to be a perfect solution," noted Muir.

Between 70 to 80 people attended the public hearing. Courtenay council will be voting on the OCP and rezoning applications mostly likely at Monday's council meeting, if not, the following week, confirmed John Ward, the city's manager of corporate administration.

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