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$300-million Ogden Point vision troubles James Bay residents

The plan, approach and scope of the proposed redevelopment of Ogden Point might be new, but there’s little new about the criticisms being levelled at a proposal that could cost more than $300 million and take decades to build.
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People view renderings of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority's master plan at Ogden Point’s Pier B on Wednesday.

The plan, approach and scope of the proposed redevelopment of Ogden Point might be new, but there’s little new about the criticisms being levelled at a proposal that could cost more than $300 million and take decades to build.

James Bay residents streamed into Ogden’s Pier B on Wednesday night for an information update from the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority on its master plan to reimagine the site. Over three hours, they voiced their concerns about air quality, noise, traffic congestion, waterfront access and views as a result of a growing cruise ship industry.

While they were told time and again that the design and feel of the new site is not yet set in stone, and that there’s nothing definite about any of the features, many of the locals made it clear they believe an expanded facility will only exacerbate existing problems.

Initial plans for Ogden Point call for a project, built out over 30 years, that could include a hotel, stores, cruiseship and other marine services, parks, walkways, First Nation displays and an educational component.

During a lengthy question-and-answer session, the residents said a redeveloped site would likely mean increased cruise ship activity, bringing more noise, pollution and traffic congestion, while limiting public access to the waterfront and ruining the view for immediate neighbours.

There were also questions about whether the GVHA has been approached to put a sewage treatment plant or a casino on the site, which covers about 30 acres of land and seabed.

Turns out they haven’t.

“Some growth is inevitable, but [cruise ships] is not an industry that I necessarily support,” said James Bay resident Darrel Woods. “What I see is a lot of the negative impact from these things and the traffic.”

Woods said he hopes the GVHA will work to ameliorate the problems. “Because it is a huge industry and a lot of people enjoy it and the city benefits, but as a resident of James Bay I haven’t seen any positives,” he said.

Tatiana Montgomery, who lives directly across the street from Ogden Point, said she’s not against “some development” — she liked that there would be amenities for the community, not just tourists — but stressed that locals need to be top of mind.

She is pushing for the GVHA to develop a good-neighbour agreement with immediate neighbours that will help open a dialogue with the people most affected. “My question is how do you become a part of the community, not just be this entity that’s there and is affecting us while we don’t know how to talk to you. Be the good neighbour,” she said.

For Montgomery, the most pressing issue is the amount of particulate that she said covers everything from her car and house to the vegetables in her garden. “A lot of the measurements they talk about are the fumes but because we are right across the street, when you burn diesel you get this particulate falling in our yard.”

Montgomery said she knew she was moving onto a street that faced a working pier, but she did not sign up for what’s to come. “I understand this has always been a working port. But they have added Helijet, cruise ships that get bigger. They change over time but without caring about the impact they are having.”

During his presentation on the Ogden master plan, Mark Crisp, senior associate with design firm Stantec, said all concerns are being taken into account. Between now and December, when they hope to have a completed plan, there will be several opportunities for residents to have input, he said. “Consultation is not over by a long shot.”

GVHA chief executive Ian Robertson said the concerns raised were similar to those he’s heard throughout the process.

He said they’ve made some strides in addressing things like fumes from buses with a planned pilot project involving a fully electric double decker bus and providing financial incentives to have tour operators use more modern and efficient buses.

Options are being explored to provide power to ships, limiting the time cruise ships use their own engines for power while in port. On-shore power has been discussed but set aside in the past because of its $12-million-plus pricetag.

Robertson said the cruise industry, which would be the anchor tenant, has suggested Ogden Point be built as an extension of the community — if residents like it, cruise-ship passengers will like it, too.

aduffy@timescolonist.com