Viewpoint: Berwick position explained

On Sept. 17, Berwick submitted a letter to the Mayor and Council withdrawing the subdivision application for our senior’s residence at 180 Jensen.

The Mayor read the letter at the council meeting and Coun. Oates took the opportunity to accuse Berwick of making threats and stating that if we do not get our way we will leave the land vacant to the detriment of the City of Parksville. Coun. Burden added that he too is “tired of threats and cannot understand why a group of people who have a lot can deny the needs of people who have nothing.”

We take exception to these statements about our family that has devoted 30 years and its own funds to care for thousands of seniors during their final years with no government funding for either capital or operating costs. We encourage citizens to view the publicly available video recording.

Coun. Beil thanked Coun. Burden for “his thoughtful comments,” and claimed that a similar project, named Uplands Walk in Nanaimo, located next to a “lovely elaborate seniors village,” has no problems or issues and in fact “concerns that people had before it went in and what the concerns are now has dropped to minimal.” Coun. Beil expressed disappointment and surprise that development people like us are not aware of actual research that’s been done.

Our research reveals that, in fact, concerns and issues have increased since opening as drug dealers have moved in to meet the needs of the residents of Uplands Walk and others in the neighbourhood. There are complaints of active drug use and dealing around the grounds of the seniors village and the adjacent Uplands Walk. Residents report late night exchanges between apartment windows and individuals on the ground. It has been necessary to install high-security fencing surrounding the village property and the library behind it is doing the same. Regular cleanup of the grounds to remove discarded needles is still required.

Uplands Walk is not comparable to Corfield as it has only 33 rental suites with kitchens and does not have any transient shelter beds or a large commercial kitchen and dining room to provide free meals. The Corfield modular building will contain 50 suites each with a full kitchen, appliances and dining area plus this significant addition:

The entire South wing of the main floor contains three shelter rooms with five beds each, two large communal bathrooms, a large commercial kitchen and a 72-seat dining room with double doors opening on to the south parking area. Since the 50 suites designed for long-term rentals each have their own kitchen and dining area, it is obvious that the South Wing of the building has been designed for transient occupancy and free meals for the inevitably large number of homeless, many drug addicted and with mental illness — men and women that will be seeking temporary accommodation, food and harm reduction supplies such as clean needles.

The agreement Council has made requires acceptance of homeless persons “without discrimination” from the Regional District of Nanaimo and Qualicum Beach, as well as Parksville. You can be sure that the planned facility will therefore attract those in need from other areas and a situation will develop similar to the current disastrous one on Pandora Street in Victoria where 150-200 homeless and in need, many addicted, gather each day for a meal and possibly a place to stay. The land area of 222 Corfield is extremely limited and the proposed building far too small to service the high demand that its very existence will create for shelter, food and the needs of drug addiction.

The location at 222 Corfield does not consider the needs of seniors. We feel that in order for there to be a long-term sustainable solution, two vulnerable populations should not be in such close proximity to marginalize the needs of one against the other.

During our meeting on June 18 with the Mayor and administrator Ms. Comis, we offered to assist with the design and construction of a more appropriate affordable housing project which was rejected. We feel the rezoning and public hearing process conducted by the Mayor ignored the official guidelines required by the City and resulted in the unfortunate division of the community that currently exists.

Berwick’s cancellation will be a significant loss to the community, especially for the many seniors who were looking forward to living there.

Berwick is and always has been a community-minded supporter in every community in which we are established.

It’s time to pause and carefully consider alternative options and location to support the homeless and bring the community together. Berwick is here to help.

Chris and Gordon Denford,

Berwick Retirement Communities

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