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Ucluelet council pushes for new medical office despite mixed reviews from residents

The proposed development includes health care offices on the ground floor and resort condos above
Ucluelet council is in full support of a proposed development involving a health care office and resort condominiums on the corner of Rainforest Drive and Marine Drive. (Clayoquot Construction Ltd. image)

Despite push back from many residents, Ucluelet council is one step away from approving a proposed mixed-use development on the northwest corner of Rainforest Drive and Marine Drive involving a health care office and resort condominiums.

Evan Hauser expressed concerns on behalf of a dozen or so Rainforest Drive homeowners. He said the need for a community medical centre is clear, but thinks the applicant Nick Killins of Clayoquot Construction Ltd. should provide more concrete evidence that they will indeed build a health care clinic.

“I think the applicant is just telling the district what they want to hear. His case would be a lot stronger and we would believe it a lot more if he showed up with a letter from Island Health. At the end of the day, he is going to get his hotel and he will throw an acupuncture clinic in there. The applicant is going to meet the minimum requirement,” Hauser said.

During a June 28 public hearing, resident Darrell Powell addressed council.

“For a longtime now, I’ve been thinking of the medical centre that’s required here. We’ve got Tofino Hospital and we’ve got over a million people coming here from June to July and it’s going to get worse. This town is getting bigger and bigger and I thought we were heading towards a dedicated medical centre not slipped in underneath something else,” said Powell.

“We really do need a dedicated medical centre, quite potentially native designed built that incorporates an area for native health as well as conventional health, mental health and other things. I think we are just passing one problem to the next when we have a little tiny clinic and we try and slip it in under some other development when really we need a dedicated facility,” he said.

The proposed Rainforest Drive development includes a three-storey building with commercial on the ground floor (health care offices) and six dwelling units on the second floor (resort condos) for a total gross floor area of 1450metres square, a 2.6 increase in allowable gross floor area. According to a report from district staff, the applicant has been in contact with local doctors and Island Health, but has not secured a commitment from either.

If the health care office plan doesn’t come to fruition, the applicant has proposed a ‘Plan B’, which includes turning the upper floor into multi-family residential units and using the bottom commercial space for community uses like a daycare centre or professional services.

“I am in huge support of option B. If you don’t do a doctors office then make it long-term housing,” said Hauser.

Mayor Mayco Noël expressed his support for the proposal. He talked about the reality of nearly losing Ucluelet’s current medical clinic and the benefits of having a developer bear construction costs for a new building.

“I think the only risk to us, is he’s asking for some density. And I understand that there could be some reservations whether it should be 19 parking spots or 23. I think those are manageable for what we’re trying to do. What I’m nervous about is opportunities like this don’t come across our table very often and when I look at what’s better for the greater good of the community and we know there has to be some trade-offs and looking at where it’s located, there could be, if we’re successful five years afterwards, we could have to put some parking on Rainforest (Drive). For me, those are not hang-ups. I think we just have to encourage more bicycling and walking,” said Noël during the June 29 regular council meeting, noting that the district is in talks with the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional Hospital District.

Councillor Rachelle Cole weighed-in.

“I trust that it will be done properly and if it falls short of getting Island Health’s full backing then it could be a daycare. As long as that bottom level serves the community to an extent with anything that makes us live happier, healthier, longer and safer in our homes then I think it’s a win-win,” said Cole.

Ucluelet’s director of community planning Bruce Greig addressed concerns about the property being in a tsunami inundation zone. Greig showed council a flood hazard mapping of low-lying areas at risk of a tsunami.

“It misses this property,” said Greig.

Noël encouraged residents to trust.

“There are stars lining up here and (the applicant) seems motivated. We are putting the red carpet out here for Island Health,” said Noël.

Hauser questioned whether the proposed size would even fit the needs of a health centre. He pressed district staff and council for more.

“Council has the power to take away any grey area. They can make it very concrete. Get more of a commitment. Be more specific, get a letter of support, get it in writing from a doctor,” Hauser said.

The Westerly sent several messages to applicant Nick Killins, but did not hear back by press time.

RELATED: ‘Sigh of relief’ in Ucluelet as Island Health steps in to keep clinic open

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