People in Musquodoboit Harbour, N.S., say they're excited about the plans for a new long-term care home, which is the first phase of a neighbourhood development coming to the rural Halifax community.
Nearly 200 people packed into the Eastern Shore Community Centre Wednesday evening to hear about replacing the current Birches nursing home with a new 48-bed facility.
"The community has been anxious, waiting for this home for so long," said Dion Mouland-Pettipas, special projects director with the Birches, after the meeting.
Halifax municipal planning staff were also on hand to share information about the proposal and gather feedback.
The new building will be on nearly three hectares of a larger parcel in the wooded area behind the Musquodoboit Harbour Railway Museum. Two new roads into the site will also be built, off Highway 7 and from Darius Lane.
A drawing of the proposed 48-bed Birches nursing home, which will replace the existing facility in Musquodoboit Harbour. (Architecture 49/ The Birches)
The Birches is the first step in a larger proposal that would see a new neighbourhood built beside it on the 20 hectare site.
Harbour Garden Village aims to build 120 new homes, made up of bungalows, townhouses and multi-family units alongside a small hotel, botanical gardens and farmers' market. The plan includes 24 affordable units.
During the public meeting, several people asked whether the new long-term care home could be expanded to more than 48 beds, which is six more than the current site, to meet the growing need.
Resident Darlene Hart said a member of her family had to stay in hospital for months because there wasn't enough care at home, and now "she's gone downhill."
Mouland-Pettipas said senior care isn't just about beds, and provincial programs to help people stay at home longer are also key.
"I think we do, for now, have the right number. However, that may change. Demographics may change," said Mouland-Pettipas.
The building is being funded by the provincial government, as part of its plan to add or replace 5,700 long-term care rooms throughout the province by 2032.
Mouland-Pettipas said all rooms will be private with their own washrooms. Some residents volunteered to help start a community garden at the site or a small farm.
Two wells have been sunk to support the Birches, as there is no municipal water service in the area. Reports filed with the proposal show no environmental concerns on the site, and a traffic study said the nursing home will generate "minimal traffic" during morning and afternoon peak hours.
A rendering for the proposed Birches nursing home shows the rear side of the home, including gardens and seating. (Architecture 49/ The Birches)
Mouland-Pettipas hopes to break ground by this summer, and move residents in the spring of 2026.
Many people who spoke during the meeting congratulated John Wesley Chisholm for heading up the Harbour Garden project, including one long round of applause.
"I think it's fabulous. I think it's amazing that community engagement has been happening for years … and this has really been shaped by the community," said resident Meghan McMorris after the meeting.
"I think it makes sense that this vision includes health-care and housing and solutions that work for us as a rural community."
The proposed Harbour Garden Village in Musquodoboit Harbour includes a12-unit cluster of detached bungalows (Harbour Garden Village)
Chisholm, a TV producer and two-time candidate for the PC Party of Nova Scotia, is leading the $60- to 70-million project and shared further plans with the crowd Wednesday night.
He and city staff said more details on the project's housing development will come before the public for consultation later this year.
Deirdre Dwyer, vice-chair of the Old School Community Gathering Place, said housing is badly needed as the current situation is "very dire."
"This means a great deal," Dwyer said.
Deirdre Dwyer, vice-chair of the Old School Community Gathering Place, says it's exciting to finally see plans for the Birches and larger Harbour Garden Village in Musquodoboit Harbour. (CBC)
"That will mean more facilities for people to stay in this community, and that's what so many people want. That's important. This is a very strong community."
The entire project is contained in one of the 10 special planning areas created by the province to speed up housing in Halifax, so there will not be a final public hearing before a community council.
Instead, the minister of municipal affairs and housing will make a final decision.
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