Guarding the Gardens in Qualicum Beach

“Who loves a garden, still his Eden keeps …”

— 19th Century poet


Back in the early days of the last decade, some people with a vision of what could be, cultivated some dreams and ideas, and from these carefully sown seeds sprang The Gardens in Qualicum Beach. 

When The Gardens finally opened its doors it became the home, long awaited, for many who chose it because of the lifestyle, care and convenience it offered.

The Gardens in QB provides independent living in apartments of various sizes for renters and condo owners while for those wanting a little help with their daily routines, it provides assisted living. These residents presently enjoy roomy dining and public areas and a variety of meeting, activity and media rooms within easy reach. Gardens’ residents needing more supervision and complex care have their own floor, the third, where their needs are met by caregivers and medical staff, and their quality of life is enhanced by bright surroundings, lounges, balconies, a sunroom, and a dedicated activities staff.

The Gardens was designed and built especially to provide a gracious, spacious, and convenient way of life for its residents, as well as pleasant working areas and conditions for its staff. The Gardens is a place in keeping with the town in which it’s situated.

In January of this year, new owners of The Gardens assured all residents “they didn’t want to rock the boat” and it would be “business as usual.” Then came July, and scarcely advertised meetings with residents and the public at The Gardens where the new owners’ real plans were unveiled.

The owners’ two speakers at those meetings may have been somewhat taken aback when they found a room packed with people who were kept waiting 25 minutes beyond the scheduled first meeting time as they casually brushed off their tardy arrival.

The residents had done their homework, studied the plans, and were in full voice and in full opposition when amenities they had chosen and were paying for were seen as being cavalierly-demolished or disrupted so that 25 new living units could be squeezed into the existing structure. The residents’ and public’s repeated “Why?” of this proposal provoked a rather obvious answer from several in the audience.

For these changes to take place, the owners had to apply to the Town of QB for an amendment to the existing building’s zoning. The mayor, members of town council, and the planning board were in attendance at these meetings. Late into the second meeting, after vociferous, knowledgeable, and well spoken questions and objections with nary a positive utterance, it was suggested that the meeting be closed and the town take a new and careful look at the zoning application before allowing its second reading.

Two days later, residents and concerned family members converged on the QB town hall for a special council meeting to consider the recommendation that the amendment be abandoned. The amendment was unanimously denied with a recommendation that any revised request for zoning change be preceded by open, well-publicized information and discussion among residents and the community (something particularly lacking before the first July meetings).

When a company includes in its mission statement, clauses like, “… prides itself on its high ethical standards, its dedication to seniors, and its respect for customers and employers … our mission [is] to improve the quality of life for seniors … with elegant, comfortable surroundings … we are equally committed to our customers and our staff … We believe that only in serving others well, can we serve ourselves well …” how do these dedications fit in with some of the proposed changes?

And some of those first proposed changes are: Move the kitchen into the basement — put the chefs down there without a window on the world; make it further from cooking to the dining tables. Take away the third floor residents’ much-used sunroom and activities area and replace it with more units, thus cutting off a huge amount of natural light, and the residents’ view of colorful outdoor happenings. Ditto a section of their dining room.

Move the care aides’ staff room to the basement — again, closed in by concrete and no outside view to relieve the several pressures of their work; move them farther from their ‘carees’ and let them spend a portion of their breaks waiting for/riding elevators.

Increase the number of residents in the first floor dining room, making it more crowded and necessitating more and frequent use of limited and slow elevator space. Move/decrease some independent residents’ recreation/activity areas.

Is this respect for customers and employees? Is this improving the quality of life for seniors?

On Wednesday, August 17 at the Gardens, two other meetings are scheduled to present ‘new and improved’ plans to residents and the community. These are not meetings for ‘old folks’ — they will be attended by mature people with their priorities and facts at hand, and ready to voice them eloquently. As Shakespeare said, “Now ‘tis the spring, and weeds are shallow-rooted; Suffer them now and they’ll o’ergrow the garden.”

On guard, Garden-ers!

— Nancy Whelan lives in Quaicum Beach.


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