Sechelt council has given second reading to the zoning and Official Community Plan amendments needed for the Trellis long-term care facility on Derby Road in Sechelt, but the date and format for a public hearing is still to be finalized.
The June 17 second reading of the bylaws followed a June 3 public information meeting held by the proponent and a 160-page report on that meeting was added as a late item to the agenda, prompting Coun. Alton Toth to move that second reading be deferred to give council more time to review the report.
The motion didn’t pass, and discussion of second reading carried on.
A report from the planning department said that although the Sunshine Coast Hospice Society is no longer planning to take space in the Silverstone Care Centre, hospice beds will remain a permitted use at the site, which would be allowed 136 beds total. The Trellis-Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) contract is for the public funding of 125 of those beds.
A summary of the information meeting and Trellis’s public engagement noted that of the 46 written comments submitted after the meeting, 13 gave no “clearly-stated” opinion, six were in favour, six were opposed because of land use concerns and 21 were opposed to the facility because it will be privately owned.
In its report, Trellis offered responses to the questions and concerns raised during the meeting and afterwards, including whether the staff would be unionized.
“Yes,” responded the company. “There are unions that currently represent the workers at Totem Lodge and Shorncliffe and this membership will transfer to Silverstone.”
Trellis also responded to a question about the potential for contract flipping after the first few years of operation, saying, “Silverstone Care and Trellis Seniors are committed to continuity of service for quality care. This requires a consistent team who works together for the shared interest of the resident and their family.”
Another questioner asked Trellis to “please explain why, in view of the opposition to Trellis-Silverstone in the community, what is your reason for pursuing this project?”
The Trellis answer cited the need, its record as “a high quality care provider,” and said it is “committed under a contract with VCH to provide the long-term care residence and care service.”
Trellis also singled out one of the letters in favour, from a local doctor, to highlight the need for the Silverstone Care Centre.
“There is a long history of Sechelt Hospital experiencing overcrowding. It’s among the worst in B.C. The bed occupancy rate typically runs at 125 per cent capacity and at times has reached 150 per cent,” the letter said. “The major factor causing this overcrowding is the large number of long-term care patients who are occupying acute-care hospital beds far longer than necessary simply because there is a dire shortage of residential long-term care beds on the Sunshine Coast.”
The Trellis response pointed out that both Shorncliffe and Totem Lodge have “reached the end of their life” and that they can’t be renovated or repurposed by VCH until a new facility is built. The company also said local demographics point to an increased need for seniors care in the future.
“In conclusion, there is a strong need for new and replaced long-term care beds in the community,” the Trellis response said.
After rejecting the idea of deferring second reading, council voted unanimously in favour, with a short list of conditions that includes adding a bus pullout that meets Sunshine Coast Transit’s requirements, which was a recommendation from the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) board.
The next step for the Trellis application is a public hearing, but planning staff said the date and format are still to be decided. Since the pandemic has suspended most in-person local government meetings, the province is allowing public hearings online or using other alternatives.
Mayor Darnelda Siegers, who also sits on the SCRD board and will be co-chairing an upcoming online public hearing on the SCRD’s short-term rental bylaw, said she’ll be watching to see how that hearing goes and if there’s any lessons to be applied to the Trellis hearing.
Andrew Allen, director of planning and development, said as well as giving more than the required two weeks notice of an upcoming public hearing, the district will be following a ministerial order that requires municipalities to properly explain alternative hearing formats and how the public can have its voice heard.
“We will go to great lengths to ensure that it’s a clear format and [explain] how one can participate and either provide comments in advance, or register to speak,” Allen said.
Trellis said if the application is approved it anticipates being able to open the Silverstone Care Centre in 2022.