Homeowners want town and hospital to meet with them about health village concept


David Chidley bought his new Petrolia home and thought he’d be able to relax. But he’s not relaxed now.
Chidley purchased the fully-renovated home on Glenview Drive a year ago knowing there was nothing he would have to do to it. He expected to stay well into his retirement years.
But that, he says, is debatable as the Town of Petrolia and Bluewater Health consider the Health Community Master Plan. Bluewater Health plans to renovate and reconfigure the interior of Charlotte Eleanor Englehart Hospital and the town is working with the same consultants as the hospital group to see how to improve the community for seniors in the future.
The concept was originally introduced as a Health Care Hub, with the town working on the planning side, to create an area which would encourage private developers to build seniors’ housing – everything from condos to assisted living – near the hospital.
The town and Bluewater Health are now working together, with a consultant, to present some ideas for a Community Health Master plan – although town officials have said the idea of housing in the area is not written in stone.
The first Chidley and his neighbours heard of the idea was a story in The Independent. When they attended the first public meeting at Victoria Hall, they noticed a big orange line around their homes. The legend on the side called it Improved Frontage Opportunities. Chidley began to wonder what was going on.
He talked to his neighbours – seven homeowners in all – and they shared his concerns.
Some of the homeowners recently told The Independent they’d like someone to explain what could happen to their homes.
All the neighbours understand the concept of planning for seniors health care and they see the value of using land near the hospital.
“We’ve pretty much assumed that all along they would love to have this entire block,” says Don Farrar who lives near the Central Lambton Family Health Team building “but for no specific reason but now there is a specific reason they laid right out in front of us.”
What is troublesome, the neighbours say, is they have not been approached by the hospital or the town about what role, if any, their homes might play in future planning.
Chidley read about the health care village in The Independent and decided to go to the first public open house. “During the presentation, right on the big screen with 100 plus people there, they put on this architectural map with this solid yellow line encircling our houses with the words improved frontage opportunity which, I think, was pretty insulting right off the bat considering that was the first we’d heard from anyone that we were in the plans.”
Chidley says it is upsetting the two groups didn’t have “the decency” to approach the neighbours whose homes were circled in the plan.
“We are being kept in the dark.”
“There is no transparency,” agreed neighbour Susan Farrar.
Thelma Murphy, who bought a house at the corner of Dufferin and Glenview two years ago with her husband Danny, says she broached the subject of her home and the possibility of the town expropriating for the project with Petrolia Councillor Mary Pat Gleeson and was told that wouldn’t happen.
Gleeson, who is the town’s point person on the project, says while she understands the neighbours’ worry, there are no concrete plans and no talk of expropriation. “Nothing, absolutely nothing has been finalized or approved,” says Gleeson. “We are still in the thinking process and looking at the big picture.”
Gleeson says the working group is still drafting the first report which will be outlined at an open house June 6. She says after that the public will have their say, including 65 LCCVI students whom the consulting group will talk with about what they see for the town in the future.
Gleeson isn’t sure a meeting with homeowners would be helpful, “It is so early in the process, there is not really anything to say other than to say we’re looking at the big picture right now.”
The neighbours aren’t so sure.
“You can’t say we aren’t in the plans or the board wouldn’t have put a display on the screen and in the lobby,” says Chidley.
“You don’t go and get an artist and make up a big board like this if you haven’t discussed it.”
Gleeson is encouraging the neighbours to attend the June 6 meeting to hear what the consultants have to say and voice their concerns at that time. “Any community or any neighbourhood that will be affected, of course, they will be consulted,” she says. “At this point that’s all it means… here are possibilities we’re talking 20  or 30 years down the road and we are making the community and town aware of possibilities.”
The Glenview and Dufferin Street neighbours plan to be at the June 6 meeting, although they first learned of it during their conversation with The Independent, Friday.
Still, Chidley believes the town and hospital should sit down with them. “I think it is their duty to have a meeting,” he says adding the homeowners only want to know what is going on and to be treated fairly throughout the process.
That’s something Murphy doesn’t think is happening now. “It makes us feel like we’re not important,” she says.
“They take our tax money, but we’re not important. We wouldn’t have spent all that money if we were not going to live there for the rest of our lives.”