January 22, 2013 · 1:37 PM

THIS ARTIST RENDERING shows what a proposed wellness centre project could look like on Mission Road, near the new Comox Valley hospital and Queneesh Elementary School. / Photo submitted

Courtenay council praised a proposed two-building wellness centre project planned for land near the new Comox Valley Hospital site and Queneesh Elementary School.

The project's zoning and Official Community Plan amendments received unanimous approval from council, passing first and second reading Monday, and a public hearing is scheduled at City Hall (830 Cliffe Ave.) on Feb. 4 at 5 p.m.

Currently, 2525 Mission Rd. is zoned for light industrial and service commercial use; if the amendments go through the land would be zoned for commercial use in the new Comprehensive Development Twenty Four Zone. The property is being used as a storage yard and is undeveloped.

Tom Moore of Moore Architecture in Victoria presented the project to council noting most of the centre's focus would be on medical professional services.

"What we're really looking at doing here is providing a high-quality wellness centre, really focused on medical services," he said, adding that doesn't discount other uses, like a coffee shop. But, "we feel very strongly that over time, and our project is designed to go over 50 to 75 years, that this is something that specialists, doctors, medical services community will want to embrace and be a part of."

The buildings would be four storeys high with stepped roofs, and would feature a modern look with plenty of windows and energy efficiencies throughout the design. One building would be about 28,000 square feet and the other would be about 30,000 s.f.

The entrance would be off Mission Road, and the plans include 180 parking stalls, with 80 of those underground.

The land slated for the project is right next to Queneesh Elementary School, and sits on the border of the residential area northwest from the chosen hospital site.

Moore noted two open houses have already been held, and proponents have had a number of meetings with the Comox Valley School District.

He noted the buildings could act as a buffer between the new hospital and the residential area. The project would include a bicycle and pedestrian path from the wellness centre to the hospital to connect the two, (as well as North Island College), and discourage people from cutting through the school property.

In response to concerns from the school district, the proponent has offered to install a raised centre median island, a raised crosswalk, speed humps and new signage on Mission Road to increase pedestrian safety.

Moore also noted "significant economic impacts" for Courtenay like an estimated $225,000 per year in tax revenue to the City, 130 person-years of work during construction and 200 to 300 permanent jobs.

Councillors were very pleased with the proposed project.

"I'm very much in favour of this project," said Coun. Starr Winchester. "I look forward to working together with them (proponents) and I think that it will work very well with the hospital — and I'm pleased to see all the work he has done with the neighbours and, in particular, the school."

Coun. Jon Ambler pointed out the land is currently zoned for industrial, noting examples of acceptable current uses like a commercial laundry or a manufacturing facility — and developers wouldn't have to ask the City "Mother may I" for those uses.

"It's a large project, it's an important project, and I look forward to hearing what the public has to say, but certainly it's hit all the things that I'm concerned about," he said.

The applicant has offered a $50,000 contribution to homelessness initiatives in Courtenay.