Maison seniors' home moves ahead in West Vancouver

Sentinel Hill dementia care facility gets council's support

A seniors care facility will go up, but property values won't go down.

That was council's decision Monday in offering near unanimous support for a three-storey, 103-bed seniors care facility on Keith Road and Taylor Way.

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There was a swell of opposition from neighbours who suggested they were subsidizing the project through their plummeting property values.

Coun. Mary-Ann Booth said she was "unequivocally convinced" property values wouldn't tumble as a result of the project, which will occupy five lots currently zoned for single-family housing.

Other naysayers questioned the need for the development.

While there are vacancies at both Amica and the Westerleigh retirement residence, Maison Senior Living will offer a last resort to struggling families, according to Booth.

"There is a zero vacancy rate for those requiring enhanced assisted living and dementia care, and a six to nine month waiting list for a comparable facility in North Vancouver," she said.

Coun. Michael Lewis agreed.

"Denying the need for this sort of facility, in this case, is a little bit comparable to being a climate change denier," he said.

The project addresses a very specific service that is lacking in West Vancouver, according to Coun. Trish Panz.

"We've certainly heard from an awful lot of people how this just engulfs families, it consumes them," she said.

Panz said she took courage from a previous council's decision to rezone the Inglewood Care Centre.

"We're better off as a community because that facility is in our community," she said.

Booth noted the vague literature accompanying a well-circulated petition calling for the preservation of Sentinel Hill.

"Nowhere in the petition or accompanying materials could I find any mention of the name or nature of the facility," she said.

Booth said she phoned a signee who knew little about the project.

Because the facility's residents don't drive and many caregivers favour mass transit, impact on traffic should be negligible, according to Booth.

There is nothing wrong with trying to preserve a cherished neighbourhood, according to Bill Soprovich, who cast the only dissenting vote.

"It's typical of other things that we fought against. .. that one must have the courage to stand up for your conviction about individual family neighbourhoods that this community was based on," he said.

The project is a case of spot-zoning, according to Soprovich, who asked council to bring forth a master plan for the Taylor Way corridor to assuage the uncertainty faced by the neighbourhood's homeowners.

Coun. Michael Lewis disagreed.

"I guess almost every development in West Vancouver is quote unquote 'spot zoning,'" he said.

Council's duties go beyond protecting property values, according to Coun.

Craig Cameron.

While noting that almost all support for the project came from outside the neighbourhood, Cameron decided there was a higher purpose to be served.

While Maison Senior Living is a commercial enterprise, it is also a home.

"These are the things that these residents need to live in the community, and to live at all, for that matter," he said.

Mayor Michael Smith concurred.

"We cannot, if we call ourselves a community, be content with shuffling off people as they come to the end of their life and they're infirm," he said.

The mayor noted an academic paper that called the lack of dementia care a crisis in the making. Anyone who thinks that crisis will be solved by the federal or provincial government is "dreaming in Technicolor," according to Smith.

Coun. Nora Gambioli noted that many of the project's opponents felt the deck was stacked against them from the beginning.

"I think these perceptions should concern us as a district and I would like us to do better in the future," she said.

Final adoption is tentatively scheduled for May.

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