Esquimalt planning advisers reject McLoughlin sewage plan

Esquimalt should not change its land-use rules to accommodate construction of a sewage plant at McLoughlin Point, says the group advising council on planning issues.

The rezoning bid for the $210-million plant got an unvarnished rejection from all seven members of the advisory planning commission after a three-hour question-and-answer session with expert proponents from the Capital Regional District and CitySpaces Consulting on Tuesday.

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The advisory group cited shortcomings in the application by the Capital Regional District. Issues raised included safety during a tsunami, the impact on tourism and harbour views, potential First Nations land claims, smells and indifference to taxpayer feedback.

“I am officially miffed,” said commission chairman Nick Kovacs, who said he felt “pigeon-holed” to make a decision in favour without being given enough information.

“It’s not that we’re picking on the CRD,” he said of the lengthy Q-and-A session. “The questions have been relevant.”

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins said Wednesday that council, which will consider the land-use changes on Monday, will “listen very hard” to the concerns raised by the commission.

However, councillors are not bound by the group’s recommendations, she said.

McLoughlin Point is zoned for bulk petroleum storage. If council decides not to amend Esquimalt’s official community plan to allow a sewage treatment plant on the site, provincial legislation allows local zoning to be overruled.

Denise Blackwell, chairwoman of the CRD’s core area liquid waste management commission, said she was disappointed by the advisory group’s stance.

“I knew Esquimalt was going to try to put up roadblocks,” she said.

If the municipality does not rezone the land, Blackwell said, it will not get an estimated $100,000 in permit fees and $950,000 for bike and path upgrades included in the CRD’s proposal.

“We’ll see what council has to say,” she said.

Sewage questions and answers

Members of Esquimalt’s advisory planning commission raised a number of concerns about the proposed sewage treatment plant for McLoughlin Point.


Joy Palmeter: McLoughlin Point is “resoundingly” inappropriate for a plant and clashes with future West Bay development.

Interim project director Jack Hull: “Most of Esquimalt cannot see the site.”


Mark Salter: Why didn’t the wind study concerning potential odours take its readings at the McLoughlin site?

Hull: “Good question. I can’t answer it. The point is that the air leaving the plant is deodorized.” Odours will be “not detectable to the human nose at property lines.”


Blair Bourchier: Compared other cities’ harbour icons — the Statue of Liberty and the Sydney Opera House — with a sewage plant, stressing the CRD’s application should have included an impact study on tourism given its importance to the economy. “You don’t need a captain saying, ‘There, ladies and gentlemen, is a poop plant.’ ”

Hull: The plant could end up being unnoticeable.


Bourchier: There’s insufficient information about what would happen in case of an earthquake or tsunami.

Hull: “A tsunami will not take out that plant,” he  said, adding the design will allow for a one-metre rise in sea level. “We have safety factor on top of safety factor.”

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