Qualicum Beach town council held a public hearing last night, after press deadline, on rezoning The Qualicum Commons to allow health practitioners to operate in the building.
The hearing came about because there are currently health practitioners working in the former elementary school, on a one year trial, Mayor Teunis Westbroek said.
“We signed off for a year where we can do it without the zoning, but it’s not intended to be permanent,” he said of the current process, which would add health care to the current institutional zoning.
He said he believed there is a dietician and someone doing rehabilitation in the downtown building that was turned into a community facility when Qualicum Beach Elementary School closed in 2014.
Still owned by School District 69, at least six organizations lease space in it, confirmed SD69 Superintendent Rollie Koop.
Koop and Westbroek agree the facility is being well used by groups like the Society of Organized Services, Regional District of Nanaimo, Better Learning Together, Vancouver Island Compassion Dogs and SD69’s Collaborative Education Alternative Program, but that there is still space available.
Westbroek said that while the current health care uses are the main reason to consider zoning changes, he said there is a larger issue to consider.
“The bigger picture is trying to attract more doctors, everybody knows that, and as we learn what makes doctors tick, as far as the new ones coming into a community, this may be of some use, but it’s not the primary reason,” said the mayor.
“With the aging population and the doctors also getting older, we need to do something that would help attract doctors, and some (among the Divisions of Family Practice, Oceanside, which represents doctors) thought that having a multi-doctor facility would be an advantage in trying to attract doctors.”
He said that while doctors used to “get a space, their own building, and set up shop so to speak, as a business. Now it seems doctors would like to come in and do medicine, so this may be a place where we may be able to accommodate that.”
Westbroek said he’s not aware of more doctors looking to move into the building, but “We thought, if that’s what the Divisions of Family Practice is looking for, let’s see if the community would agree that that might be an appropriate site.”
“Having a space at Qualicum Commons continues to work well for SOS, and we’re excited to have recently expanded our offering at the site to include a youth program,” SOS spokesperson Lissa Alexander said, adding, “It’s encouraging to see the site fill up with other service providers, contributing to the vision of making Qualicum Commons a vibrant community hub.
The public hearing was scheduled for the evening of Feb. 22 and council will consider third reading at a future meeting, the next is scheduled for March 14. There was little to no discussion among council during the first two readings of the zoning change. Watch
The NEWS for more on the process.