Not wanting a first impression to be a lasting one, Capital Regional District directors have postponed a public information session on its new sewage treatment plant until they have a better idea of what it might look like.
Since it will be located on the waterfront at McLoughlin Point, at the gateway to the Inner Harbour, the design of the plant needs to involve more than its function, directors said.
Many members of the CRD’s sewage committee said they were caught off guard this week when an artist’s rendering of a proposed sewage treatment plant was published on the front page of the Times Colonist.
The drawing, one of several pieces of information requested by Esquimalt as part of the McLoughlin Point site rezoning application, was intended to be representative of how a plant could look but not necessarily what it will look like, CRD staff said.
But many directors didn’t like what they saw — a series of nondescript, rectangular concrete buildings, fronted by a high concrete retaining wall, which they say does not do justice to the harbour entrance.
“What was released or portrayed may or may not be identified as a sewage treatment plant, but I certainly see it as an industrial site and not a particularly attractive one at that,” said Saanich Coun. Vic Derman.
“They say a picture is worth 1,000 words. Well this is a picture that has now been imprinted on the public’s mind,” said alternate director Victoria Coun. Pam Madoff, who along with Derman worried the drawing might become a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Derman noted McLoughlin Point is “a tight site” and there is not much room to mitigate the building’s look with landscaping.
“As alternate director Madoff has said, the indicative design — given the tightness of the timeline — becomes more and more the likely design,” Derman said.
Sewage committee chairwoman Denise Blackwell earlier suggested proper use of paint, building placement or perhaps native art on the side of the buildings might be an improvement.
Derman said that would be “like putting lipstick on a pig.”
Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins said the proposed site is a highly visible piece of Esquimalt’s waterfront and the drawing “limits the mind to industrial.”
“This is at the entrance to the harbour. This is a vantage point where seaplanes, where cruise ships come in, where ferry traffic that comes [directly] into Victoria comes past,” Desjardins said. “This is a piece of property that we have to stop thinking of what was, and we have to think of what can be.”
The depiction of the sewage plant looks more like a fish processing plant than something appropriate for greeting people arriving in the city through the waterfront, said Saanich Coun. Judy Brownoff.
An open house planned for Feb. 21 will be postponed until design guidelines are in place.
Those guidelines are being developed and vetted by groups in Esquimalt and Victoria.
© Copyright 2013