A planning committee meeting that spanned two days ended on Monday with a 6-2 vote in support of a master site plan for the future Civic hospital on the Central Experimental Farm.
The committee endorsement is one of the many steps The Ottawa Hospital will need to clear as it develops the $2.8-billion health-care centre at the east end of the farm, near Dow’s Lake. The new hospital, which will replace the existing Civic campus on Carling Avenue, is scheduled to open in 2028.
After hearing from dozens of public delegates on Friday, many of whom are still bitter about the site selection process, committee members waited until Monday to cast their votes on the site plan.
While the committee overwhelmingly supported the proposed site plan, several councillors predicted there will be significant work to nail down the look and feel of the new hospital site.
One major unresolved matter is the way the hospital will be connected to the expanded Trillium Line, whose refurbished Dow’s Lake Station will be located on the north side of busy Carling Avenue.
Stephen Willis, the city’s general manager responsible for planning and infrastructure, said an underground pedestrian connection and overpass are feasible options to connect the hospital with the rail station, but there might not be a decision for another two or three years on which one to build.
There’s also angst about the hospital’s intention to build a four-storey parkade by 2024 near the intersection of Carling Avenue and Preston Street. Willis offered assurances that the hospital will conceal the garage from the picturesque Dow’s Lake area.
River Coun. Riley Brockington, whose ward covers most of the hospital project site, said the Central Experimental Farm is “vulnerable” and he wants the federal government to prevent any further deterioration of the open space.
“The farm is not protected from development,” Brockington warned while calling for a federal law to protect the farm. The committee unanimously agreed.
The city might already have the government’s ear. Incoming Ottawa Centre Liberal MP Yasir Naqvi made legislated protection for the Central Experimental Farm part of his platform during the recent federal election campaign.
Knitting the new hospital into the surrounding green space is important, said Rideau-Goulbourn Coun. Scott Moffatt, who co-chairs the planning committee.
Moffatt said health-care staff working under heavy stress deserve to have access to a natural environment, not a “concrete jungle.” The mental health of employees at the new health facility should be part of the decision-making that goes into planning the hospital project, Moffatt said.
Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper and Capital Coun. Shawn Menard voted against the site plan but they received unanimous support for amending motions related to public transit access, cycling infrastructure, tree planting and community consultation on transportation issues.
Menard lamented the “undemocratic” way the land was selected for the new hospital. He argued the site plan falls short of what council originally expected to see presented by The Ottawa Hospital.
Committee members voting in favour of the site plan were Glen Gower, Catherine Kitts, Jean Cloutier, Tim Tierney, Brockington and Moffatt. Laura Dudas and Allan Hubley weren’t present for the vote.
Council will be asked to support the hospital site plan during a meeting on Oct. 13.