The Oak Bay Lodge will become available in about one year. How would you like to see it developed?

A bit of context.

The current Oak Bay Lodge is a regional facility that provides a range of residential care levels options and services for seniors, allowing them to remain in a familiar and stable setting as they age in one location. This has been a valuable asset in Oak Bay where many have benefited from the campus of care facility for the past 35 years. So in 2012, when Island Health partnered with Baptist Housing to propose the replacement of OB Lodge with a six story, 320-bed (possibly expandable) regional complex and dementia care hospital, there was an outcry from the neighbouring and larger OB community, myself included. Though many in Oak bay continue to believe the project was to replace the OB Lodge with another campus of care, this was simply not so. The replacement was from a campus of care facility to a regional complex and dementia care hospital.

Though Island Health was asking for significant change of use and increase in size and mass of the complex, they conducted NO consultation with OB Council nor the community. Yet there were legitimate concerns about height, massing, parking, traffic congestion, blasting, and change of use. In fact, the square footage of the proposal was about two times that of the Oak Bay Beach Hotel! These concerns, as well that Oak Bay residents would not have priority access to the new facility, the narrow scope of critical care only, and that the dementia care hospital would be exempt from land taxes to Oak Bay, the original application was rejected by Oak Bay Council. Councillors Braithwaite, Jensen, and myself voted against the original application, and Herbert and Mayor Causton voted in favour.

Eventually, in response to Oak Bay’s final decision with the next Council, Island Health still needing a critical care hospital to meet region needs, turned their attention to another site, at Blanshard and Hillside. Most people I talk to in the region agree this a much better location for a regional critical care facility of this scale.

The learning here must be that any project of this scale on this site must undergo extensive community and regional consultation.

Currently Island Health owns the property and very soon intends to legally transfer the property to the Capital Regional Health District (CRHD). The CRHD will then consult with the larger region about the future use of this land. The only criterion the CRHD is constrained by is that the province requires the land be used for the “public good”. This opens the door for local input on the future use of this property.

So as the CRHD enters an engagement process with the region, I would want leadership in Oak Bay to be proactive and engage the neighbours and broader community to develop some creative ideas for this strategic property that can at the same time meet the needs of the region as well as Oak Bay. This might be a site with mixed use housing for elder care as well as below market rental for young families that will encourage connectivity between seniors in care or living independently and young families, for example. But importantly, this would be a bottom-up process reflecting the needs of the region AND views of Oak Bay residents.  I would be very concerned about any leadership that wants to repeat the mistakes of the past, making behind-closed-door deals to predetermine the use of this site without thoroughly consulting the citizens of Oak Bay.