A public hearing on a seniors housing proposal for Kings Lane held last Wednesday night garnered many responses from people concerned about the fate of the Salt Spring Health Centre medical clinic.
Islanders were invited to the May 22 community information meeting and public hearing to ask questions and give input on an application by the Gulf Islands Seniors Residence Association, and a full house turned out to Lions Hall. GISRA plans to build a three-story residential building with 50 units of affordable housing plus services. The property is currently zoned under community facilities, with uses restricted to medical and dental offices.
The requested zoning would add multifamily, affordable residential use and also permit a service club to accommodate Salt Spring Seniors Society in the main building.
The future of the clinic has caused some concern from the practitioners leasing the Kings Lane centre and supporters in the community, who have asked the Salt Spring Local Trust Committee to guarantee future operations through a covenant.
“Please protect both projects,” housing advocate Fernando Dos Santos said at the hearing. “They’re of equal importance to the community.”
Shared space for Salt Spring Seniors is being planned for the residential building, and would include a kitchen, office and programs room. Seniors Society president Jean Elder said the organization voted to move at their last annual general meeting since the building they own is in bad repair and was only meant to be a temporary home.
But some speakers, including Lady Minto Hospital’s medical director Holly Slakov, requested that “service club” not be included in the property’s permitted uses in order to protect the clinic location.
GISRA representatives have said there is no danger to the clinic operations. The board approved a letter of intent expressing the wish to cooperate on May 21 after a meeting between the two groups and planner Pat Maloney took place on May 16.
GISRA says it can offer the clinic operators a lease of 10 years or longer, if they wish. The board has also committed to providing a liaison to the health centre team and to creating a construction management plan that would limit disruption to daily operations as much as possible.
After hearing multiple comments on the clinic situation, LTC chair Peter Luckham encouraged people with other concerns to submit their views as well.
“We have heard loud and clear that this is a very valued service to your island and it’s important that it continue and not be interrupted,” Luckham said. “What we really want to hear is what you think about the zoning, whether it’s a good fit.”
Most participants at the hearing supported the project for seniors housing in general but disagreed with some of the particulars in GISRA’s proposal. Several people, including the owner of a large property within the Agricultural Land Reserve next door to the site, suggested keeping the building at two stories and having fewer units.
Maloney explained that Salt Spring’s official community plan allows for greater density in affordable housing projects, and GISRA wanted to maximize the number of units to meet demand. There are also cost efficiencies to the plan which will make construction and therefore rents more affordable, she said.
GISRA’s application will most likely be considered for third reading at the June 25 LTC meeting. Conditions involving other agencies include water system approval by Island Health and connection to the Ganges sewer.
For more on this story, see the May 29, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.