Saanich council Monday approved various for building height, parking and interior side-yard for the new Centre for Health and Wellness that Camosun College currently under construction on its Interurban Campus. Submitted

Proposed Camosun building gives rise to safety, traffic concerns

Camosun College health and wellness building in Saanich not accessible by transit at night

Delegates from Camosun College faced questions about safety and traffic as they asked Saanich to approve various variance permits for the college’s new health and wellness building.

The college plans to build a new four-storey building on its Interurban campus to train nurse and health practitioners. While councillors praised the new facility estimated to cost $48.5 million as a valuable addition to the local post-secondary environment, they also raised several pointed questions about the level of transit service to the campus located in a semi-rural region of Saanich.

“Some of the concerns that I hear are from students who end up working out of the college at night, and the transit service is pretty poor,” said Coun. Judy Brownoff.

Camosun vice-president of administration Shane Busby admits the existing Camosun shuttle bus does not operate at night. “The last trip [of the shuttle] is four, five o’clock. We have reached out to BC Transit in the full knowledge that we do need to work very closely with them to ensure that there [are] enhanced services [to existing regular BC Transit lines]. “You are absolutely right, it does get quite quiet out there.”

Brownoff pointed out female students, who will likely make up the bulk of nursing students, won’t feel very comfortable. Busby agreed, adding that Camosun has added additional security to both campuses to supplement existing measures.

Busby said earlier that the existing Camosun shuttle between the campuses remains an “integral part” of its transportation service, as do other services, including car-sharing. He also said that the college continues to work with BC Transit to improve ridership and the frequency of stops.

BC Transit, he said, has told Camosun that it faces funding constraints and wants to focus on improving service to communities on the West Shore. “But that won’t deter us,” he said.

Coun. Susan Brice, who chairs the Victoria Regional Transit Commission, said that she would make a pitch for additional service.

“I can assure you that the transit commission considers Camosun to be a very important customer,” she said, adding that she would like to see late night service as well.

Other questions focused on parking, as Camosun seeks to reduce the number of required parking spots, although a total of 195 parking stalls are being added to the campus.

While Coun. Colin Plant praised Camosun’s ability to reduce the number of car trips to Interurban campus, he said he has also regularly heard from individuals concerned about parking.

Specifically, he worried that the Interurban campus might not have enough parking spots, if the college does not go through with its proposed shift after Saanich had granted the variance.

“Camosun recognizes that this [new building] represents a densification of this site,” said Busby, adding the college has tried to minimize the increase by shifting its population.

The college plans to move 1,000 nursing students from the Lansdowne campus to Interurban, while some 600 students from various programs at Interurban campus will move to the Lansdowne campus.

Busby told council that Camosun plans to go through a master planning exercise starting in October and scheduled for completion prior to completion of the building.

“We do have other lands at Camosun that could be dedicated to parking, but it would be pre-emptive to dedicate those lands for parking without really knowing what the educational requirements for students of Saanich…would be,” said Busby.

Council granted the variances, subject to receipt of additional information from the college about its student population plan prior to the issuance of the final occupancy permit.

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