After expressing frustration with the way its development application has been handled by the District of Sechelt, Trellis Seniors Services has struck a deal to buy land for a new long-term care facility from the Town of Gibsons.
Gibsons council approved an agreement to sell the property at 571 Shaw Road to Trellis for $2.24 million in a closed session July 18.
The lot is already earmarked in the Official Community Plan for a health facility and has the appropriate zoning.
Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) awarded Trellis a contract to build a new, 128-bed facility in 2016.
The VCH plan, which includes the closure of beds at Shorncliffe and Totem Lodge in Sechelt, has been a lightning rod for controversy ever since – drawing opposition from unions, public health care advocates, and NDP MLA Nicholas Simons.
The Silverstone Care Centre was originally to be built on Derby Road in West Sechelt, on land Trellis intended to purchase from Sawarne Lumber. Recently, however, reports started surfacing that the company was looking for a different location.
“We have a contractual obligation to meet, and so we must look for other solutions. We must look for and consider other options to deliver on the Sunshine Coast’s need for seniors long-term care,” company representative Susan Fisher confirmed earlier this week.
VCH also confirmed new locations were being considered, saying, “We support moving forward as quickly as possible with a new purpose-built facility that will bring at least 20 more beds to the community. We cannot comment on what other options Trellis has under consideration at this time, but any option they bring to us will be explored through a comprehensive due diligence process.”
Gibsons had been holding the Shaw Road lot for a possible expansion of Christenson Village, a care home operated by the non-profit Good Samaritan Society, which also bid for the VCH contract.
“We carefully considered several factors, including the immediate need for long-term care on the Coast as expressed by both Vancouver Coastal Health and the physicians; the potential for over 150 jobs in the area such as care workers, trades and businesses; and support for the Town’s tax base,” said Mayor Wayne Rowe in a release announcing the pending sale.
“Equally important was honouring the wishes of the Christenson family who dedicated this location for seniors care. Our Official Com-munity Plan recognizes this dedication and zoning had been put in place accordingly, so we foresee an efficient and timely permitting process.”
The release also said, “Mayor and council are committed to working with Trellis to ensure affordable housing is part of the development to both support and sustain the workers, and to address a significant concern of our town and the Sunshine Coast.”
The deal between Trellis and the Town of Gibsons comes a month after the company wrote to Sechelt’s mayor and council “to convey our disappointment with the recent events related to the Trellis Seniors Services Ltd. rezoning application.”
The June 7 letter was prompted by an earlier decision from Sechelt’s planning and community development committee to hold off on drafting zoning and OCP amendments for the Trellis project to allow the creation of district-wide policies on institutional care and seniors’ facilities.
Trellis said its disappointment in the way the application has been handled stemmed from “the degree of misinformation, and the process in working with the Sechelt Planning Department, that is resulting in the delay in meeting the dire need for seniors long-term care.”
Just last week, Dr. Jim Petzold, the lead physician on the Residential Care Committee of the Sunshine Coast Divisions of Family Practice, made another public plea for the community to get behind the Trellis proposal as a necessary first step in addressing the area’s long-term care shortage.
In a letter to Coast Reporter, Petzold also said, “We encourage VCH to continue to work with our community to develop plans for the repurposing of Totem Lodge and Shorncliffe and to explore additional options to meet our future long-term bed requirements.”
If the approval process goes forward as Town officials expect, construction could start by late fall and wrap up in 16 months.