The visioning exercise underway to determine the future of the Riverview Hospital grounds does not represent the view of the city of Coquitlam or the community.
That was the consensus from city councillors during a special committee meeting Tuesday afternoon at which they voted in favour of sending a letter outlining their concerns to BC Housing and the provincial government.
“The people in this community feel strongly about Riverview and about preservation,” said Coun. Craig Hodge, who chairs the Riverview Lands Advisory Committee. “I don’t know if the [Renew Riverview] document aligns with the goals of this city or the goals of our residents.”
Among the list of grievances with the visioning report that was released last month was a lack of inclusion of the findings in the Higenbottam report.
Dr. John Higenbottam is a former vice-president of Riverview Hospital who stated the 244-acre site should be dedicated for the treatment of people with severe mental illness, a view shared by city council.
“In essence, the province has looked at that and said ‘No,’” said Coun. Terry O’Neill, later adding that the province “got the public input and said, ‘OK, that is interesting, but here’s our vision.’”
But O’Neill said council should take comfort in some of the commitments from the province, which has stated its intentions to maintain the arboretum and the green space.
In other cases, the province has liquidated its excess land to the highest bidder, something O’Neill noted was not the case with Riverview because of its importance to the city and the community.
“Those are important things that we have to realize and keep in mind,” he said. “The community and council asked for the stars… We didn’t get everything we asked for but we got a lot more than I think other communities got… in terms of assets being liquidated.”
But O’Neill’s assertions did little to soothe others at the council table, who said some of the claims made in the report could open the door to residential development on the property.
Coun. Mae Reid said the province’s stated “break-even mandate,” which seeks to recoup costs put into the property through revenue generation, is particularly concerning. She stated she would prefer the land be kept for a future hospital, an amenity that will be needed as the population grows north of the Fraser River.
Coun. Chris Wilson went one step further, saying the process has ignored the public and the city’s views.
“It is a slick sales job that has cherry-picked any feedback they wanted and ignored the feedback that they didn’t want,” he said. “It is extremely frustrating.”
BC Housing was unable to provide a comment before deadline.
People said one thing, BC Housing another
A majority of Tri-City residents are opposed to development taking place on the 244-acre Riverview Hospital site and hope to see it restored as a health care facility, according to a report from the Burke Mountain Naturalists.
Director Elaine Golds said in a report that she was able to track down data collected by BC Housing in an online survey last year that were never reported by the Crown corporation.
“It is disappointing this information was not summarized by BC Housing or shared with the members of the public who took the time to participate in this survey,” Golds, a Tri-City News environmental columnist, stated in the conclusion of the document.
Participants were asked to rate the potential of 47 illustrations and planning themes on whether they loved it, thought it was OK but needed work or whether it belonged elsewhere. A total of 597 people participated but, because of the number of themes outlined, some responded to more of the illustrations than others.
For example, under the category for health care services and employment activities that featured landscape as healing, 269 people responded, with 80% saying they loved it, 16% saying it was OK but needed work and 4% saying it belonged elsewhere.
Under the theme of “continuum of care,” which included hospital patients making a community garden, a total of 71 people responded, with 89% saying they loved it, 11% saying the idea was OK and none saying it belonged elsewhere.
Other features were not quite as popular, according to Golds’ findings.
Under the illustration for “interactive park space” featuring a beer garden with local beers and wines, 190 people commented, with 71% voting that it belonged elsewhere, 15% saying they loved the idea and 14% saying it was OK but needed some work.
Another 69% said townhouses belonged elsewhere while 64% said residences and retail should not be built on the Riverview property.
For a link to Golds’ report, click here.