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City forces hospital to decide on land

Nathan VanderKlippe
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Apr 19/02) - The City of Yellowknife has given Stanton Regional Hospital 30 days to come up with a plan to develop land that borders Old Airport Road between McDonald's and the hospital.

If the hospital doesn't come through, the city will put the land up for sale. The 1999 assessed value for the lot is $774,000. The market value is higher.

Faced with a land development fund deficit of $961,000, the city needs to sell the land to bring its figures into the black. The 2002 budget counts on selling the land, which was put for sale last December, to help eliminate $400,000 of that deficit.

Larry Elkin, chair of the Stanton Regional Health Board, said the hospital is looking to expand its services to the entire territory. That could mean using the 1.78-hecatre lot for nursing student residences or an additional clinic.

"All our wards at the moment are full, there's all kinds of daily pressures. We could use more space now. Parking is a major problem," he said.

Councillors differ on what a solid proposal should be. Some, like councillors Ben McDonald, Wendy Bisaro and Kevin O'Reilly, say Stanton should demonstrate a commitment to the property, which could mean drafting a strategic plan.

Others, like councillors Alan Woytuik, Dave McCann and Dave Ramsay, place greater emphasis on getting the funds now.

"I'm not interested in letting it just sit there. It's costing the taxpayers money because of missed opportunities," said McCann. McDonald said a hospital would contribute more taxes than a strip mall -- one of the alternatives for the property -- and hospital employees would make greater financial contributions to the city, since health-care salaries tend to be higher than service industry wages.

But some councillors question the need for the land. The hospital already sits on a 9.86-hectare property, most of which is unused.

"I don't think selling the lots off would necessarily prevent the hospital from expanding further," said Woytuik. McCann suggested the hospital could expand by building upwards, not outwards.

Elkin said the hospital board is united behind obtaining this land, which he says is important because of its size and position adjacent to the hospital.

"We already have our services for the hospital that run through that land," he said.

The hospital board intends to meet city demands within the 30-day period, he said.

But in the end, best intentions and long-term goals will be distilled to the city's need for money.

"The way to tangibly express interest is probably to get some money on the line," said McDonald.