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Revised development plans please HJ McFarland residents

By Nicole Kleinsteuber
Her passion to care for and to protect the residents living in the H.J. McFarland home for seniors runs as deep as the trees in the facility’s front yard.
Watching the residents fight for the chance to keep their front yard an open space free of future developments has been hard on her and stressful to the residents said Jan Welbanks, the chair of the family council for the home.
“They have rights,” said Welbanks. “People tend to forget that. Often they’re placed in homes and they’re forgotten. We can’t forget them. We need to place them up high and respect them.”
After an outpouring of opposition from residents and their loved ones at a planning meeting on Dec. 5 county council and developer Nautical Lands Group (NLG) decided to push the plans to the rear of the facility.
Phase one of the four-part operation includes two four-storey buildings totalling 139 one bedroom units and eight villas – each containing four separate units on the four acre land. NLG will then work on blue prints to construct a retirement community and possibly a medical centre.
“They (the residents) are really happy with the change in plans,” said Welbanks who has worked with the aging community for 20 years. “But there are still a lot of unanswered questions.”
Questions such as access to the development, traffic concerns, disruption to residents and water and sewer studies has Welbanks thinking council could be rushing into deeming the land as surplus.
She said there need to be more studies to ensure everything is feasible.
“There needs to be more planning, more detail, more blueprints, measurements and placements of things,” said Welbanks. “They don’t have a problem with the new plan but it needs to be done slowly so that it blends, instead of selling a chuck here and a chunk there.”
Welbanks said the residents would like to see the front yard zoned as an open space to allow for a walk way and more landscape.
When the topic came before council at the Dec. 6 committee of the whole meeting council voted to sell the land at the back of the building to NLG.
Councillor Brain Marisett suggested deferring the issue to staff until the official plan amendment, offer of purchase and sale and zone by law amendment could come back to council in one neat package allowing no opportunity for over sight on the matter.
Chief Administrative Officer, Merlin Dewing recommended against waiting any longer and to go ahead or council could lose the opportunity that is before them.
“We need to have the land declared surplus or we have no bargaining position on the offer,” said Dewing.
Mayor Mertens agreed, noting he sees no reason why council should put the plans on hold as NLG is the only group that has shown interest in developing on the property.
“It’s a step up in the level of care that they offer,” said Mertens. “It’s one piece that addresses two or three components of our overall strategy of any aging place facility. We need to move forward on this. We talk about taking advantages of opportunities. This is one of them.”
Welbanks said she understands council and the developers desire to get going on this but she doesn’t understand the need to rush the process or how it will coincide with future plans to renovate the aging facility.
“We’re not trying to fight the council we want to work together with them,” said Welbanks. “All we want is for them to do the proper process and get it done together with residents, family and neighbours.”

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