The Township of Esquimalt opted to rescind previous plans for a proposed 12-storey development at 899 Esquimalt Rd. in favour for a slightly smaller version.
In July, councillors voted for proponent Lexi Development to seek more public input on its proposed project before anything could go beyond the second reading.
The 12-storey project originally required a height variance, as the official community plan caps the height at six storeys. As an incentive for this height variance, Lexi Development proposed allotting the first two floors, up to 4,000 sq. ft. of the development, for a 24/7 urgent primary care centre.
Lexi committed to building the site, finding contracted staff, and acting as a landlord for the centre. The covenant also promised to provide short-term clinic solutions, including possible mobile clinics, until the project is built, as well as the promise to build a kayak dock in the Westbay Marina.
Additionally, the clinic was set to be the primary purpose of the building, where contracts had to be set before pre sales for the upstairs condos began. It promised a 10-year subsidized rent for the space.
After online and in-person public outreach, including a meeting where approximately 100 people attended, Lexi Development has altered its plans.
It will now put forward a 10-storey building – a difference of 10.2 metres – and re-prioritize the housing versus the clinic, as well as no longer being the landlord of the clinic. Instead, Lexi would provide a sum of $395,000 to the Township – the equivalent value of 10 years of subsidized rent – so that the Township could inject that forward to general practitioners.
“Previously the main use would be the primary medical, secondary residential, but there were a lot of legal flaws and gray areas in that sentence,” said Babak Nikbakhtan, CEO of Lexi.
The gray areas he alluded to included the inability to begin pre sales, and the risk of doctors leaving affecting the rights of strata owners.
Lexi would also no longer provide mobile clinics or a kayak dock, offering $54,000 and and $150,000 respectively in lieu. It would also put forward $30,000 for the installation of two pedestrian-activated crosswalks.
Despite the smaller stature, more units would be installed, totalling 69 smaller units.
Coun. Tim Morrison was most vocal about the changes.
“The whole point was to make sure you have a medical clinic,” Morrison said. “I just get really concerned because I myself said to residents that ‘don’t worry, they can’t do the project until they have the medical centre in place’ and now that’s no longer accurate.”
Morrison also voiced concern about the change in units and parking spaces.
“I’m trying to understand the logic of decreasing the height but increasing density overall,” Morrison said.
Coun. Lynda Hundleby felt that the premise of offering a clinic space wasn’t good enough.
“This is just a space with no promise of physicians,” she said. ” I appreciate using the new medical model… but there’s no guarantee. Other spaces in the Township have been used by doctors, but no one is coming to staff them.”
Hundleby abstained from voting.
Esquimalt Mayor Barbara Desjardins said further input could be provided if the proposal was sent to a public hearing, and most other councillors agreed.
In a vote, where Couns. Meagan Brame and Jacob Helliwell opposed, council voted to rescind the original second reading, approve this variety of the second reading and pass the proposal along to a public hearing at an undetermined date.