Better communication needed on sewage plans, Esquimalt mayor says

Sewage is a regional concern and the Capital Regional District needs to do a better job of keeping everyone up to speed on its plans, Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins said Tuesday.

She made the comment following a marathon meeting Monday during which Esquimalt council gave second reading to a revised rezoning application for McLoughlin Point, where the CRD plans to build a regional wastewater treatment plant.

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“There were lots of people there [Monday] night from all over the wregion and they all spoke to the fact that they wanted this to go to a public hearing,” Desjardins said.

“The key thing that we heard … was this wasn’t just an Esquimalt thing, it’s a regional thing, and people are interested all over the region. The CRD needs to make [its plans] clear, it needs to make them public.”

The CRD plans to hold two open houses in the coming weeks. A public hearing is tentatively set for Feb. 18 and 19 at the Esquimalt Recreation Centre gymnasium.

“They’ve agreed to reach out a little bit more but … they heard from council members and others that they have to make this clearer to people because it’s very confusing,” Desjardins said.

Mike Peckham, the CRD project manager for the wastewater treatment plant, gave a presentation to council that included a “flyover” animation of a generic-looking structure.

Three proponents have submitted designs for the plant — none of which can be made public, irking many of those who stood to speak to council.

Confidentiality is necessary under the tendering rules. But secrecy presents a problem in this case, where the rezoning application is proceeding before the contractor and design are selected.

Peckham tried to address the issue by showing a graphic that showed where each proposal would involve setback encroachments that require variances.

The project calls for a traffic plan including barging, amenities including waterside pathways, a permanent dock and public art, and no detectable odour at the property boundaries.

A six-metre wall, designed to protect the site from tsunamis, would separate the property from the public pathway.

The CRD also informed Esquimalt council that the McLoughlin site includes two small pieces of property that aren’t zoned.

“Why are [they] bringing it forward at the last minute when [they’ve] known about it?” Desjardins asked.

It’s unclear whether rezoning the small parcels would mean council has to make changes to its Official Community Plan.

About a dozen people addressed council, all asking for the matter to move forward to a public hearing.

Carol Witter of Head Street in Esquimalt said the McLoughlin Point site is too small for the project: “I don’t like what’s been negotiated so far. I’m not optimistic about what’s to come from this public hearing.

“It doesn’t seem like the CRD cares or that they’re listening.”

Russ Smith of Kings Road in Victoria called for the CRD to advise the region of what’s in the works.

“We have to understand the whole project, not just bits and pieces of it,” Smith said.

Eric Pittman of Dunsmuir Street in Esquimalt also felt the project was getting squeezed into a small space: “Let’s find out what the truth is before they put shovels in the ground.”

smcculloch@timescolonist.com

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