A small information session hosted by Chigamik CHC and Waypoint for residents, most directly impacted by Council’s decision to grant part of Edgehill Park for a new health hub, took place today at 4:30. The event included David Jeffery (Director General of Chigamik CHC), Carol Lambie (President and CEO of Waypoint) and numerous staff from both organizations as well as the architect Bill Lett.
A dozen local residents who responded to the RSVP event were shown artist renditions of the proposed building and grounds. The concept is a building set into the hillside. The architect reported that the grass rooftop will help the building blend into a panoramic view from Edgehill Drive. Unfortunately, no concept drawings showing those perspectives were available so the audience was left to use their imagination.
David Jeffery and Carol Lambie took turns explaining the funding, the timetable, the services provided, the efficiencies gained by collaborating but stopped short of revealing the other sites that were considered or why they were excluded; citing privacy concerns for the property owners.
The residents took turns asking questions and grilling the proponents about the design, the loss of their property values and parkland vistas but were unanimous in their support of the organizations and their mandates in the community.
Many residents spoke about their resentment over the loss of the parkland and the fact that Council had set a dangerous precedent in the community by turning over this parkland for development and that it was too bad that Waypoint and Chigamik were the focus of this negativity simply by being the organizations who put these wheels in motion.
It was confirmed that the funding for the project is a collaboration between some 3.7 million dollars secured by Chigamik back in 2013 for the interior of the building (set to expire soon) and the yet to be approved Waypoint funding from the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care (through the Local Health Integration Network – LHIN) for the remainder of the 15 million dollars to erect the building. The funding is not meant to replace their operational funds, but instead to be used exclusively to meet the capital expenses around this project.
There was a brief discussion around other proposed locations included why the brown field lands from the Midland Bay Landing site across the road were not considered. The short answer is as we have suspected and have reported all along. The delays in studying, remediating and reclaiming the old commercial lands would have thrown the project’s timelines out of sync with their funding.
If Council had not offered up Edgehill Park (or a portion of it) then the Health Hub concept would likely not exist leaving both organizations looking to settle elsewhere and to re-apply for funding. After more than six years of searching through three councils, Chigamik could not take that risk and with Waypoint’s lease at the Georgian Bay General Hospital building coming to an end at the same time as Chigamik’s, the timing to put together this ‘hail mary’ plan was perfect for the organizations and bolstered by a willing Council.
It was again learned, and we have no reason to doubt this anymore, that there simply is no plan B. It is this land, this timing and this combined funding or the hub concept dies on the table and the two organizations find new separate locations in Midland until another opportunity to combine presents itself.
The layout of the property was discussed and the issues surrounding lack of accessibility by pedestrian and non-automotive traffic. The lack of sidewalks, and single point of access to the building were challenges that both organizations and their architect acknowledged would need to be addressed by the town. In addition, the water studies, that have yet to be done, may cause concerns for the proposed location of the stormwater pond that currently is projected to sit on an area defined as a highly vulnerable aquifer.
In our consultations with the Severn Sound Environmental Association, we learned that while this designation is not likely a death stroke for the project, it could be a problem for stormwater and run-off that would need to be considered when / if the SSEA is engaged to comment in a risk management capacity. No such consultations have been requested by the Town of Midland or the proponents of the project.
In another surprise admission, when discussing the potential for “growth” beyond the current footprint, it was learned that the parking spaces in the current plan are not actually sufficient for their needs, and that they will continue to pay for overflow parking at the municipal lot nearby.
While both Lambie and Jeffery are adamant that there are “no plans for site growth” on the horizon, the revelations about parking seem to be an indication that the current concept building may already be too small for their long-term usage. While Chigamik’s roster (the number of people they serve) is not yet full, and the new location should allow them to serve another 1000, there is no place to grow on this site without moving out into the rest of the park. There is nothing in their 10 year plan for this growth, there is also no assurance that growth may not be required.
In their words, the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. That is the core of our concerns over Council’s decision to grant them this land. It is the slippery slope. It would be difficult, morally and legally, for a future Council to deny them more land to meet their increased needs when the precedent has been set and Council’s own past practices could easily be used against them in a phase 2 style land request.
Another surprise were the intended hours of operation. Chigamik is currently open as late as 9PM, four nights per week and a few Saturdays, with no plans to reduce these services at the new location. This could impact traffic, noise, light pollution and affect the local residents in ways that Council had not considered thus far.
The residents remained true to their concerns about the loss of the historic parkland, many citing that they bought their homes for that very reason. The residents were concerned about their property values and the reduced sight lines and the new “fence” that would border the two-tiered parking lot. Compensation has not been offered and both Chigamik and Waypoint defer that liability to the Town of Midland. The Town has not made any mention of an intention to compensate the local residents for any losses, theoretical or otherwise.
Both Waypoint and Chigamik continued to make the case for their services and the need for the hub and its location, but the residents reminded them that their opposition was rooted solely in the location selected and the exclusion of other potential locations simply out of a desire to save time and meet funding deadlines. Both organizations admitted that their service delivery would remain intact if the decision were reversed. Chigamik said that they would not be able to increase their patient load but no services would change to those whom they serve now and those who rotate through their programs.
More sentiments from residents who could not attend tonight’s meeting were relayed to the organizers. Frustrations were raised about the town’s lack of valuation on the property and the fact that the community cannot have a dollar value on what they are asked to give up. All parties agreed the land is valuable and likely will grow in value as the waterfront develops.
The discussion moved to taxes and development fees. David Jeffery (Chigamik) says that their organization pays taxes now and expects to continue that practice from the new location. He also stated that they would be expected to pay development charges and there were no exclusions in place for them. Waypoint, since they are a hospital, indicated that their organization does not pay taxes in the traditional sense.
It is highly unlikely that Midland will break even on this project and the lease rate for the land is merely a token payment so that it is not free.
The general feeling was that Chigamik and Waypoint were in the middle of a battle between Council and the residents of Midland, a battle they inadvertently started by asking for this parkland and failing to offer any alternatives to Council or the residents. The battle’s natural progression is an OMB appeal and challenges to the Ministry and the County.
Everyone seemed sad that it had to come to this. The meeting drew to a close and it became evident that while Waypoint and Chigamik have a genuine will to make peace with the community over this divisive issue, the residents stand in undivided opposition over the parkland development.