Monday’s meeting filled White Rock Community Centre (above); while fewer – including Evergreen executive director Stephen Bennett (below) returned to city hall the next evening to complete submissions.

Monday’s meeting filled White Rock Community Centre (above); while fewer – including Evergreen executive director Stephen Bennett (below) returned to city hall the next evening to complete submissions.

Two days of hearings over White Rock care home

98 queue to speak on proposed eight-storey expansion to White Rock's Evergreen Baptist campus

A proposed complex-care facility that has had neighbours up in arms for months can be moved slightly from the footprint that was first proposed – but the change will hurt, proponents say.

“It’s definitely a hardship,” architect Mark Ankenman told White Rock council Monday of the approximate 17-foot shift to the northeast, at the start of what turned into a two-day public hearing on the project. “It’s over $200,000 of added construction costs.”

Ankenman is in charge of the project, which is eyed for the Evergreen Baptist Care Home campus at 1550 Oxford St. If approved, the eight-storey, 199-unit, L-shaped facility will replace 107 existing beds and include 92 new ones that were awarded to Evergreen by Fraser Health last fall.

Its planned proximity to the 12-storey Belaire complex – located immediately north of the proposed tower – has been repeatedly cited by its residents as being among many concerns.

Many of those residents were among more than 100 people who turned out to White Rock Community Centre Monday evening for the public’s first official opportunity to voice opinions on the project.

After 3½ hours and 56 speakers, the hearing was adjourned until Tuesday evening, when it continued for another three hours at city hall. In all, 98 people spoke, either in person or by a designate.

In addition to proximity concerns, those who spoke against the project cited its impact to views and natural light, the loss of 22 mature trees (which council heard would be reduced to 16 should the shifted plan be approved), the anticipated impact on traffic/parking in the neighbourhood and the impact on livability and property values.

Many noted they are not generally opposed to the addition of the complex-care beds, but more to the proposal as it currently stands.

Belaire resident Charles Kelly described a “shocking” lack of transparency in the process, and encouraged council to consider establishing a “good-neighbour policy” akin to that in Vancouver or Calgary.

Those in favour of the care tower described the need for more, and updated, seniors’ facilities.

“The facilities there do not meet the needs of the people there,” said Bridget Knoepfel, referring to the Evergreen wings that would be demolished following construction of the new tower.

Knoepfel said both of her parents resided at Evergreen. She said the disruption of relocating current residents during construction – proposed by those who want to see the tower built on the footprint of the wings that are to be demolished – would be “catastrophic.”

Stephen BennettIn defending the decision to keep the residents in place during construction, Evergreen executive director Stephen Bennett said Tuesday that options to relocate the residents are “very, very” limited – Fraser Health officials had advised the seniors would have to be spread through Burnaby, New Westminster, Chilliwack and Langley, he said.

Bennett noted one of the reasons Evergreen was awarded the contract is because of the plan to keep those beds open during construction.

In response to concerns that neighbours only learned of the plan in October, Bennett explained that proponents were following Fraser Health orders.

“We were under strict confidentiality,” he said. “We were not allowed to disclose (the project) to anyone.”

White Rock resident Savannah Mumford made likely the shortest statement in support of the project, gently chiding opponents at the same time: “I’m surprised so many people are against this as the residents are the people who raised us.”

Others in favour said the rebuild is important to seniors who will need care in the future.

“My mobility has become an issue. I know I’m going to need a place to live,” said Karen Shaw, noting her family has called White Rock home since before the First World War.

Shaw and others recalled that the Belaire building sits on the former site of a care home.

Ankenman said he remembers being more concerned with the tree loss caused by the luxury condo development, built in 2006, than anticipated with the Evergreen project.

He also expressed frustration with some speakers’ comments that addressing proximity and view concerns would require simple adjustments to the plans.

“It’s been suggested that lots of people would like to help me with my job and that’s appreciated,” Ankenman said. “We’ve been working at this for 10 years. If there’s a solution bouncing out there that I don’t know about, I would be very surprised.”

Belaire resident Barry Miller challenged council to consider how they would feel “if your home was one of those affected…”

Gail Smith said she is not against having complex-care facilities in the community, but is opposed to “development projects that are pushed and rushed through the approval process without much scrutiny.”

Several opponents said they disagreed with amending the city’s bylaw to facilitate the project. However, proponents – including former White Rock councillor Lynne Sinclair – noted the Belaire also required concessions.

“The precedent was set on this property a long time ago,” Sinclair writes in a letter presented by a designate.

Former Surrey councillor Judy Higginbotham added her voice to those in support, as did former Fraser Health CEO Keith Anderson (the latter also by designate).

City clerk Tracey Arthur said 185 submissions were received prior to the public hearing; 132 of those expressed support for the project.

Three petitions were also received, with 148, 59 and 200 signatures. Just over half of those who signed were also supportive.

Council next meets Feb. 24, when the proposal is expected – but not yet confirmed – to be on the agenda for consideration.


Peace Arch News