Development of a seniors care facility on Gorge Road West is back on track, following the approval of changes to the proposed building.
At Monday’s committee of the whole meeting, Saanich council approved a half-dozen changes to the form, character and number of units of a proposed independent supportive living seniors’ residence at 998 Gorge Rd. West. Zoning and development provisions for the project were approved last year, but an unforeseen increase in costs caused organizers to sit down with the city and prepare an amendment to the original plan.
“Rather than being in a position to start construction, we have been diligently refining the design of the project and reviewing all operational aspects,” said John Kuharchuk, senior vice-president of development at Campion Property Group. “In our review of those proposed changes with planning, it was felt that those needed to come back to council as they were somewhat different.
“In our efforts to move ahead with the project, there have been many changes that meet the aspirations of the community and council… and what they’ve resulted in is a significant increase in costs from where we were when we were last before you.”
Kuharchuk estimated the expense increase at 35 per cent, largely due to the facility’s continuum of care occupancy and environmental remediation costs related to the one-pump gas station that used to be part of the Brookman’s corner store.
Changes to the original proposal include removing patios and accessible balconies from suites for safety reasons, lowering the height of the centre roof, switching from metal to asphalt shingles and using different materials for the exterior finish. The developers also made changes to the Brookman’s heritage building to better reflect the store’s original appearance, and the addition of two units, bringing the total up to 145.
“We don’t ask lightly, but we really do need council to allow us to proceed on the basis that’s been presented because it has a very significant impact on how we can move forward,” said Kuharchuk.
Prior to council’s comments, Wendy Farwell of the Gorge Tillicum Community Association said the group has been pleased with the amount of communication from the developer, architect and operator.
“They’ve been very responsive – they’ve come to meetings, they’ve brought materials, answered our questions, taken our input,” she said.
However, speaking as a citizen, Farwell said she would like more one-on-one communication between area residents and the developer to keep up to date on the development, expressing concerns with the ongoing delay of the project.
“It’s a big hole in the ground and it’s a construction site with a fence around it. It’s been there for quite a long time, and people driving by have no idea what’s going in there,” she said.
Kuharchuk addressed the delay, noting the remediation surrounding the removed fuel tanks and four rounds of cost analysis lent to postponement of construction. The project first went to public hearing back in January 2014. At that time, construction was expected to take 20 months.
Ken Johnson of the Saanich Heritage Foundation, which reviewed the application last year, commented in favour of the project, commending the developer for their work in preserving the Brookman’s site.
Before council’s unanimous vote to approve the amendment, Coun. Dean Murdock thanked the developer and said he is looking forward to seeing construction begin soon.
“At the end of the day, I think we’re all very pleased to see this moving forward,” said Murdock. “I’m very excited and was last year, and remain excited about this going into this location.”