Staff from the District of North Saanich have staff have provided some feedback to a “pre-application proposal” for a campus-of-care style retirement community. A spokesperson for the proposal said discussions started about a year ago. (Black Press Media File)

North Saanich scouted for campus-of-care retirement community

A spokesperson for the would-be project confirms ‘preliminary discussions’ with district

Groups behind a non-profit Christian retirement community in the Lower Mainland are in preliminary discussions with North Saanich about plans to bring a comparable campus of care model to the community, a project that could impact land currently zoned agriculture.

“We have had preliminary discussions with respect mainly to process and how the [municipality] would see something like that moving forward,” said Ron Pike, executive director of Elim Village in Surrey.

Rebecca Penz, communications manager with the District of North Saanich, said staff have provided feedback on a “pre-application proposal” for two properties later identified as 9064 East Saanich Rd. and neighbouring 9028 East Saanich Rd.

North Saanich has not received any formal application from the group. When asked about details of the group’s “pre-application proposal,” Penz said she could not release any “confidential information.”

Both properties lie partially within the Agricultural Land Reserve, as confirmed by staff at the Agricultural Land Commission and Pat Zanichelli, owner of 9028 East Saanich Rd.

Zanichelli said Tuesday that representatives of the group approached him a “few months ago” on his “understanding” they would be looking to build a campus of care, but declined to discuss additional details.

“It’s sort of early in the process,” said Zanichelli, who declined to answer whether he has received a formal offer from the group.

The property at 9028 East Saanich Rd. is seven acres, with four in the ALR, said Zanichelli. ALC staff estimate 35 to 40 per cent of the 20-acre property at 9064 East Saanich Rd. lies within the ALR. North Saanich’s Official Community Plan designates the areas outside the ALR as special development areas.

Pike said he would not directly comment on those properties, adding that it would not be fair toward the property owners. He also repeated earlier comments that the process is very early and the groups are “nowhere near” purchasing land.

“There is nothing really established yet,” he said. “We are just in preliminary conversations with a few people.”

Pike said a loosely-organized community group of individuals from a range of backgrounds asked about a year ago if the concept of Elim Village could work in Greater Victoria. “We are not a classic developer,” he said. “We are kind of a by-the-community, for-the-community organization. We don’t go looking for growth or development. It’s kind of something that is community driven.”

Ultimately, this is about collaborating with the community, he added later.

Pike said the nature of this pre-application proposal was “pre-dominantly information with respect to Elim, what we are about and what we are trying to achieve.”

When asked about the number of potential units for a potential North Saanich project, Pike said he could not offer any specific figure. “There are so many factors that play in that and we are so early in the game, I couldn’t give you a good indication of that,” he said. “There are numbers that create viability, but we have to assess them,” he added later. “It wouldn’t be the scale of what we are doing in Surrey.”

According to its official description, the Surrey facility is managed by a trio of non-profit societies (Elim Housing Society, Elim Christian Care Society, Elim Foundation) and features 250 independent living units consisting of 36 duplex units and 214 apartments spread across five apartment buildings located on a 25-acre property. That campus of care also includes 109 assisted living units and 193 full-care units operated in partnership with other actors. A similar-in-style but smaller Christian retirement community is partially completed in Chilliwack under the guidance of Elim Housing (Chilliwack) Society.

When asked about the potential appearance of any potential North Saanich project, Pike said no pre-conceived idea exists.

“We start philosophically, that we want to have an aging-in-place community,” he said. “We want to make sure that it is a campus, so that there is a variety of housing, care, and wellness options for people on that site. And then so much depends on the site itself, how that site gets put together, what the community around it is.”

Pike said the current focus lies on navigating local processes, as well as measuring political and public support. “Because we are a community group, we would be looking to engage people in conversation on this well before we are down this path. We don’t have money to be throwing at stuff that doesn’t have any chance of success.”

When asked why North Saanich has come into focus, Pike described it as a “beautiful community” with appeal.

“A few people in our community group have lived there … and it’s an area that people are drawn to and we were brought towards,” said Pike.

“We feel that we have a very, very, very attractive model for providing senior living services,” centred on aging in place, he said. He promised additional outreach to the public would explain Elim’s “unique” model animating any future project in North Saanich.

“We want to take as much time as necessary to make sure that there is real engagement,” said Pike. “We are not looking to push our way through something. We will engage the community in discussion and all those kinds of things going forward.”


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