District of Sicamous council and staff addressed concerns and confusion surrounding the Shuswap Healing Centre on Oct. 13. (Zachary Roman/Eagle Valley News)

District of Sicamous council and staff addressed concerns and confusion surrounding the Shuswap Healing Centre on Oct. 13. (Zachary Roman/Eagle Valley News)

Sicamous residents riled by proposed healing centre location, loss of green space

District agrees town hall meeting needed to address concerns, confusion

A group of Sicamous residents are seeing red over potentially losing downtown green space.

On Oct. 13, some of those residents brought their concerns about the announced location of the future Shuswap Healing Centre, 200 Main Street, to the district’s council meeting.

While the location is zoned as downtown commercial, in the past it has been used for outdoor events. Attendees argued it is one of the last green spaces in Sicamous’ downtown core and should be kept as such.

Mayor Terry Rysz explained the property will continue to provide public green space after the centre is built, adding plans include keeping existing trees on the property, and the creation of an outdoor community gathering space.

In 2015, when the district purchased 200 Main Street, the mayor said council floated the idea of making it a park.

“We originally thought that’s what we’d designate it as,” said Rysz at the time, adding the caveat that future councils could decide what they wish to do with it.

At the Oct. 13, 2021 meeting, Rysz acknowledged concerns around communication with the public. He and council committed to having a town hall meeting before moving any further with the project.

Christiane Duclos was one Sicamous resident who spoke during the meeting’s public input period. She’s an administrator and moderator of the Facebook group “Save our Community Greenspace! 200 MAIN STREET.” The group had several of its members ask questions at the Oct. 13 meeting.

Duclos asked if the district had done a community impact study on what the loss of the green space would mean for Sicamous. She also asked if council would be willing to put development plans on hold until the community was consulted further.

Sicamous Town Manager Evan Parliament said it’d be easy to put development plans on pause until a town hall meeting is held.

“All we’ve done is announce the preferred locations of projects. We’re trying to do the best we can with the limited land we have,” he said. “I have heard loud and clear the community’s concerns, here at council, and at a meeting at the seniors centre. There will definitely be a town hall.”

Read more: Pre-construction phase of Shuswap Healing Centre project green-lit

Read more: Location of healing centre, affordable housing project announced by Sicamous council

Parliament noted improvements being made at Beach Park, and said events previously held at 200 Main Street could be held there.

“We need to get people in the room and field their questions,” said Parliament.

Some residents who spoke were confused as to what the Shuswap Healing Centre will be. Parliament said the district takes responsibility for that confusion.

“When I look back and take my municipal hat off, I get confused too,” he said, referring to the fact the project has been referred to in a variety of ways, such as a wellness centre, healing centre and medical clinic. “In short, what we are building here is a medical centre. It will provide a wide range of services for everyone, no matter who they are.”

The centre will house doctors and everything the current Sicamous Community Health Centre does. It will also provide space for other health providers, such as dentists, physiotherapists, optometrists and mental health professionals.

Parliament said rumours the centre would be used for addiction services are false.

“Those facilities are primarily operated by the private sector in B.C.,” said Parliament. “If someone needs those services, they will be referred.”

The centre is currently in a “pre-construction phase.” At a Sept. 8, 2021 council meeting, council unanimously authorized Rysz to execute a letter of intent between the district and Scott Builders Inc. — which has partnered with AST Consulting LLC, architect Douglas Cardinal and Christine Lintott Architects Inc. — to provide design services for the project.

The cost of those services is $253,536, and that money comes from the roughly $6 million the district received for the project through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program.

The design team for the centre, Dr. Avein Saaty-Tafoya (of AST Consulting LLC) and Cardinal, have visited Sicamous and 200 Main Street, as well as met with members of council and the community. They’re working towards having drawings of the centre and property ready before Christmas, said Coun. Jeff Mallmes.

On the topic of drawings, Mallmes said a concept drawing (seen below) of 200 Main Street being shared with the public could have been confusing.

A conceptual drawing of the positioning of the Shuswap (Secwépemc) Healing Centre at 200 Main Street in Sicamous. District council decided the centre's location at an Oct. 6, 2021, in-camera meeting. (Steffi Sunny/District of Sicamous)

“That drawing was just a visualization of the square footage, it’s a total misrepresentation of anything Douglas Cardinal has ever designed,” said Mallmes.

Coun. Malcolm Makayev said he doesn’t see very many options for other places the centre could go; and Coun. Gord Bushell said the district doesn’t have much money to purchase land, meaning buying more land could result in a tax increase.

Before the public input period ended, Parliament said the district would brainstorm and communicate transparently about the Shuswap Healing Centre.

“You need to know what’s going on and we’ll make sure it happens,” he said.

Do you have something else we should report on? Email: zachary.roman@saobserver.net
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