A public hearing was held during the Feb. 4 regular meeting of council, in which council carried the second and third readings of Bylaw 029-19.
The bylaw is to amend part of the Town Centre District sites five and six with the addition of residential care facilities.
“The owner of the Best Western Hotel in Chestermere is applying for this amendment. The owner sees the opportunity to repurpose the building for a more feasible residential care facility,” said the Municipal Planner of Community Growth and Infrastructure, Shamin Vicencio.
It was determined in the 2018 census that more than 18 per cent of Chestermere residents are 55 years of age or older, and by 2028, the per centage is expected to rise over 32 per cent.
“This would represent the greatest population of growth by age demographic in the city. Given this, it’s important that the city would by then have senior housing available, and options readily available,” Vicencio said.
The City of Chestermere conducted a seniors housing needs assessment in 2018, which identified that the absence of seniors housing along with a rapidly growing senior population required immediate attention.
In January, the Council Task Force on Seniors presented recommendations to council to consider for supporting seniors in the community.
After the presentation, council created a Council Advisory Committee on Seniors, which will give council the ability to contribute in addressing identified seniors’ needs in the future.
“The applicant and city staff intend to collaborate throughout the application,” Vicencio said.
“City council’s 2019-2022 strategic plan priorities commit to addressing seniors housing needs by prioritizing senior-friendly neighborhoods and promoting inclusive and diverse housing options,” Vicencio added. “The proposed land use amendment aligns with all of these priorities.”
The representative of the applicant, Tom Hong, spoke in front of council as to how the applicant chose to pursue a residential care facility.
“We purchased the land in 2013, and we did our due diligence as to whether or not the hotel would be feasible in the community prior to starting,” Hong said.
When the Best Western Hotel was completed in 2016, the Alberta economy was in a recession.
“Due to the poor economic conditions, as well as the hotel industry, specifically deteriorating, the owners of Best Western Hotel had assessed that the property will not be able to financially stabilize or recover to a level that was initially intended when the land was purchased,” Vicencio said.
“Given that, the owners see the opportunity to repurpose the building to a more feasible residential care facility,” she added.
“It’s been really tough for us to be operating as a private business and as a hotel. That’s why we’re proposing senior living for the facility,” Hong said.
However, in order for the hotel to be converted into a seniors housing facility, the pool needs to be transformed into a dining room.
“We’ve looked into other options, to see if there’s another way to accommodate it, but with budget constraints, this is the only option we had,” Hong said.
He added, “I understand the pool is very valued in the City of Chestermere, and that’s why we’re looking to do a temporary conversion of the dining room, so if the opportunity arises for an expansion, we would develop around the pool so it can be reopened.”
Due to the building type, the facility can only cater to independent seniors living and will provide approximately 80 spaces.
Hong believes that the facility location will be extremely beneficial for seniors, as most amenities are within walking distance.
“I have heard a resounding ‘Yay’ on this,” said Chestermere City Councillor Cathy Burness.
“It’s a great location, and there’s no getting around that. I couldn’t have imagined a better location,” Burness said.