Don’t demolish old Campbell River hospital, Jakeway tells VIHA

The hospital was the topic of discussion at Tuesday’s meeting as the health authority was looking for council approval

A new hospital is on the way but Mayor Walter Jakeway doesn’t want to part with the old building.

“I would like them (Vancouver Island Health Authority) to consider not tearing down the old building,” Jakeway said at Tuesday’s council meeting. “I don’t believe there’s a lot wrong with the old building…but I believe there’s still a lot of value in the old building and that it gives us potential in the future to use that old building for something else.”

Jakeway spied Grant Hollett, the interim project manager for the new Campbell River and Comox Valley hospitals, sitting in the council chamber gallery and asked him to pass along his message.

“I know there’s representatives sitting here,” Jakeway said. “If they can convey that back, I think it would be a great asset to our town to keep certainly most of it. A lot of it’s not that old. A lot of it is under 30 years old, so it would be great to consider that in your design.”

The hospital was the topic of discussion at Tuesday’s meeting as the health authority was looking for council approval of a Variance Permit to increase the maximum permitted height of a future hospital building from 20 metres to 40 metres.

“The applicant’s request to vary the permitted height arises from a need for flexibility of design,” said Chris Osborne, city planner. “TDhe applicant expects the hospital to be 30-40 per cent larger than the existing building, much of which will be accommodated through the greater height of the new building, but does not anticipate that the full 40 metre height is likely to be achieved for any significant part of the main building.”

But nearby resident Scott Macnab who lives on Evergreen Road, said all the unknowns are concerning.

“The lack of plans means we can’t really assess the impact this change might have on our property,” Macnab wrote in a letter to council. “For example, were there to be a 40 metre high building on the Evergreen Road section…then the impact on our property would likely be extremely high, were it located in most other areas…the impact on our property would likely be extremely low.”

Macnab asked council to consider a compromise – impose limits on how close the building can be to the boundary of the property.

“I understand that a 40 metre building will be required to be 20 metres from a front boundary. Would the city consider increasing this to 30 metres from the boundary on all sides?” Macnab asked.

Ross Blackwell, the city’s land use manager, said that could affect how pedestrians perceive the building.

“In balancing the height considerations, there are some urban design considerations that factor in and one of those urban design considerations is creating a strong street edge,” Blackwell said. “It’s fairly important in terms of a potential relationship with the neighbourhood in terms of pedestrian activity and so on and so forth. Thirty metres in staff’s opinion would be excessive. The numbers identified in the (staff) report I think are optimal.”

City staff’s report to council lays out a formula where a required setback is increased in line with any height setback in order to avoid an unduly dominant building. Staff recommends that any part of the building that is between 20 and 40 metres in height, must be set back eight meters in the front and 16 metres in the back.

Blackwell said that formula ensures that the angle from the street to the top of the hospital does not increase and therefore should not have a significant impact should VIHA choose to put the building close to Evergreen.

“The applicant has confirmed in any case that siting the main body of the new building either on the upper (western) part of the site, or close to the Evergreen boundary would be impractical and very unlikely to appear in the final design,” Blackwell said.

He added that the health authority has not submitted any definitive blueprints for the design and layout of the new hospital and he doesn’t expect VIHA will come back to council with designs for future consideration. Blackwell said part of the reason for that is there has already been a discussion between the health authority and city staff on form and character – the type of development permit the hospital triggered – that will be considered through the design phase.

Blackwell said VIHA will be apprising council of design considerations.