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Developing Story: Neighbours want proposed Casa Mia care facility project scaled back

A neighbourhood group wants the proposal for a care facility on the Casa Mia property at 1920 Southwest Marine Dr. scaled back. The city hosted an open house about the rezoning application Monday night.

A neighbourhood group wants the proposal for a care facility on the Casa Mia property at 1920 Southwest Marine Dr. scaled back.

The city hosted an open house about the rezoning application Monday night. The Care Group, which is behind the project, held two open houses prior to submitting the rezoning application to the city.

It owns and operates seven facilities including Point Grey Private Hospital, and proposes that the Casa Mia site be rezoned from single family residential to comprehensive development. The Care Group would save the Spanish Revival-style heritage home and build a 92-bed, three-storey community care facility with underground parking on the property.

Casa Mia is designated a Heritage A building. It was built for George Reifel, a liquor magnate and rumrunner during the Prohibition era, who opened the Commodore Ballroom. Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington and Count Basie have performed in the ballroom of the 20,700-square-foot mansion.

Brian Jackson, the citys general manager of planning and development, calls the proposal a conundrum.

[Thats] because of the need for a licensed health care facility, as well as the desire to save a heritage house, he told the Courier in an interview prior to the open house. But then we want to very carefully consider the concerns of the neighbourhood in terms of traffic, overlook, as well as the appropriateness of the land use in the neighbourhood.

City staff collected public responses at the open house and will look at the technical issues associated with the proposal.

We need a traffic study, we need a soil stability study because this is on an escarpment, and we need some additional urban design work to show us the overlook things like that that were looking for as part of the application, Jackson said. Then we pull all that information together and we make our assessment as far as whether the project can be supported or not.

The Southlands Community Association has launched a website at to oppose the Casa Mia rezoning application. The group represents residents living in areas near the property, including Southlands, the Angus Lands and the Southwest Marine Drive neighbourhood.

Were not really opposed to the Casa Mia developing an extended care facility, said association representative Marilyn Taylor. What we are opposed to is its outside the scale of the neighbourhood. It doesnt fit with the neighbourhood. We would still be supportive of them doing an extended care facility but scaled back. We could see something about a third of what they are proposing.

Taylor said residents want to sit down with the developer, the city and heritage planners to come up with other options.

She acknowledged accusations of NIMBYism have been tossed at those opposed to the rezoning application. We dont feel it is a NIMBY thing. Were not opposed to the development. It is the scale and the scope of the development, so when you say NIMBY not in my backyard, we can have it in our backyard but not to the extent that the developer has proposed to the city, she said.

Jackson said the city takes neighbours concerns seriously and that size is one of many issues that will be taken into consideration.

Taylor isnt sure how much influence her group will have on the rezoning.

Are we optimists? Well, we see a lot of spot zonings throughout the city. We see some very erratic developments where citizens have gotten together and protested to city hall and yet some of the developments still go through, she said. But were hoping because were presenting ourselves, we feel, in a very professional manner, that the city will listen to us.

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