Nova Scotia releases report on Bayers Lake outpatient clinic a day after election
An internal provincial report evaluating sites for a new outpatient centre in Halifax was released Wednesday, just hours after Liberal Premier Stephen McNeil won a second majority government.
The Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal report, released to The Canadian Press through a freedom of information request, offers a glimpse into the site selection process for the new suburban health care facility that has sparked controversy.
The province paid $7.5 million for the 15-acre Bayers Lake location, which was announced prior to the election call. The new outpatients clinic will offer services including blood collection, x-rays and initial visits with specialists.
Halifax Mayor Mike Savage has expressed surprise over the choice of location, suggesting municipal officials weren’t adequately involved in the site selection.
Although sections of the report are heavily redacted, it reveals government officials were aware of high-risk issues associated with the Bayers Lake site selected for an outpost of the QEII Heath Sciences Centre.
“It may be some time before a high level of transit service is available,” the report said of the Banc Commercial Holdings property, located amongst mixed retail, light industrial and office developments.
Yet most of the analysis on public transit for the site, labelled “high” risk, is blacked out.
The report noted that Highway 102 and the Lacewood interchange is “nearing capacity again” and there are “limited options for further improvements.”
In addition, the report said weekday traffic volumes will continue to increase in Bayers Lake, an area prone to congestion.
Meanwhile, an alternative site that city officials have pointed to as a preferable location lists public transit risks as “none.”
The municipally owned site near the Canada Games Centre is in an area of mixed retail and multi-unit residential development.
It’s also close to the Lacewood Transit Terminal, which is served by multiple routes including express routes to the peninsula, the report said.
“Halifax Transit says that this transit corridor has the highest concentration of transit users which makes it a good candidate for future service improvements,” the report said.
None of the analysis on public transit for this site is redacted in the report released Wednesday.
Overall, government officials note in the report that public transit was only afforded a cursory consideration.
“Transit was briefly evaluated but it is expected that the primary transit users would be staff and not clients,” the report said.
Unlike the Bayers Lake location, which the report notes is “more property … than is required” and would offer the opportunity for building or parking expansion, the Halifax-owned site would require denser development.
“The site is small for the intended program and a two-storey building with underground parking would be required to make this site work,” the report said.
The report touches briefly on 14 sites, and gives a detailed analysis of four short-listed sites.
In addition to the Bayers Lake and Halifax-owned locations, the report also examines the former Rona store site, also in Bayers Lake on Horseshoe Lake Drive, and a Shannex location on Starboard Drive.
Although the city’s chief planner said he was contacted by the province, Bob Bjerke said his concerns over the Bayers Lake property went unheeded.
He told The Canadian Press it would be “nearly impossible” to provide the business park location with adequate transit service, and that the area is not conducive to adding bike infrastructure.
© 2017 The Canadian Press