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Esquimalt village plan goes to public meeting

Jan 11 2012

Esquimalt council is rebooting the municipality's village plan following a positive vote in last November's referendum.

Phase one of the mixeduse development calls for a combination of residential, commercial and civic uses in two buildings - one of which may be up to 12 storeys - on the site of the old municipal hall and old public works yard off Esquimalt Road.

Councillors this week approved bringing the plan forward to a public meeting.

"The public meeting is to provide information so that the community is well informed of where this project is at," Mayor Barb Desjardins said. "It is important to bring everybody back up onto the same page again and have an understanding of where we left off."

Desjardins said misinformation continues to dog the project and she hopes a public meeting in advance of a public hearing could answer questions voters may have.

The Esquimalt Village plan, which would see two residential buildings, eight and 12 storeys high, with commercial space and 20,000 square feet of civic space on the ground floor, had received wide support in the previous four years, but when it went to public hearing several residents spoke out against it.

That prompted the former council to postpone any decision to rezone and instead to hold a non-binding referendum during the November municipal elections.

Esquimalt residents voted in favour of amending the official community plan for development of phase one. There were 1,150 yes votes and 690 no votes.

Issues to be discussed at the meeting include:

- Parking. Underground parking would be moving into new territory for Esquimalt and concerns have been expressed about whether the proposed 360 underground parking spaces will be adequate for both the 180 to 200 residential units and commercial properties;

- Scale. Some believe two towers, one of eight storeys and one of 12 do not create a village atmosphere and would affect nearby homes and may take away playground and green space.

- Ownership. No decision has been made regarding ownership of the property. Options include the municipality selling the land; retaining it and entering into a partnership with a developer or leasing the land to one or more developers. Desjardins said the ownership issue may require a separate meeting.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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