WHITE ROCK – More than 200 local residents came out Monday and Tuesday to see how council would react to a public hearing on a proposed eight-storey care facility that would be built at the Evergreen Baptist Care Facility, located at 14th Avenue and Oxford Street.
Held over the course of two nights due to the large number of speakers, the hearing saw more than 100 speakers take to the podium and further 300 had sent in letters stating their support or opposition to the project.
The proposed development would see an eight-storey building erected in the parking lot at the current Evergreen site on Oxford Street that would add 92 care beds to the current facility, bringing the total to 199. The expansion is being contracted by Fraser Health in an effort to increase care beds in the area.
Those in opposition to the proposed development primarily seemed to be residents of the neighbouring Belaire condo complex who are worried about the impact the new building would have on their ocean views, as well as property values. According to development plans, if the facility were built, some Belaire residents could see a concrete wall erected anywhere from 40 to 60 feet from their windows.
Former White Rock Coun. Margaret Woods wondered why council would even consider "piling buildings on top of buildings.
"Everybody loves a nice new home…but this is not about providing beds, this is about development and maximizing profits," she said. "Single family homes have to be 50 feet from their neighbours. Something’s gone amiss in our planning department and I suggest you deny this and send Evergreen back to the drawing board."
Other concerns were about the required removal of 16 trees to accommodate the building and the impact an additional 92 beds would have on local area traffic.
One resident wondered why council was even considering the project at all as there was no guarantee that White Rock residents would even make it into the additional beds.
"This is counter to the interests of the city and community and the vast majority that will fill the rooms will not come from White Rock," said Barry Miller. "They are collected from the entire Fraser Health district then depositied at the unit. Aside from reinforcing the view of White Rock, what is the benefit to the city? Additional burden to taxed infrastructure?"
However, those in opposition all seemed to agree that more care beds are needed, just not using the current proposal.
Speaking in favour of the proposal, South Surrey resident Dawn Turner said the community needs to have respect for their seniors and do all they can to address the growing need for care beds before the issue gets too out of hand.
"Close to three out of every 10 Canadians is a baby boomer, do we have enough beds now? No. Is there a waiting list? Yes. We need more beds, and we have to do something now not later," she said.
"The oldest of the baby boomers is 65. We are now at 2014 and how many are waiting? Why are we not thinking ahead and planning ahead?" Evergreen’s executive director, Stephen Bennett, spoke to provide a bit of history on the current building, noting that the first building opened in 1962 offering just 40 beds at the time. Since then, the facility has grown and has been home to more than 4,000 seniors.
Suggestions that the facility’s B and C wings be demolished first and the new building built in their wake were also dismissed by Bennett, as relocation simply wasn’t an option for those currently residing in those sections.
"Fraser Health has said no Evergreen development if we have to move residents," he said, adding that the stress of relocation could be too much for the frail tenants to handle.
Bennett urged council to look past the present in planning for the future.
Council is set to hold the final vote on the development at the Feb. 24 council meeting.