Esquimalt sewage decision not expected until April

Esquimalt isn’t scheduled to make a decision on locating a sewage treatment plant at McLoughlin Point until April 7 — raising the spectre of millions of dollars in tax dollars flushed down the toilet because of delays.

Esquimalt is being offered about $13 million in amenities from the Capital Regional District should the siting of the $230-million plant on the former oil tank farm be approved. The amenities would include oceanfront walkways, a million-dollar bike and path system on Lyall Street, public art, bike lanes, road improvements and $55,000 a year for at least five years to compensate for hosting the unpopular sewage plant.

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The site is already zoned to allow wastewater treatment, but the CRD is seeking what it characterizes as minor encroachments (a maximum of four per cent) into a 7.5-metre shoreline buffer.

Esquimalt gave second reading to the rezoning bylaw on Jan. 21, clearing the way for a public hearing on the application.

The municipality held two evenings of hearings Feb. 18 and 19, but still had people wanting to speak at the close of the second session.

A combination of advertising requirements, other responsibilities such as budget deliberations and councillor availability means the next hearing can’t be held until March 20.

If a further hearing be needed, it will take place on March 22.

Esquimalt council will then meet April 7 to make a decision on the rezoning.

Mayor Barb Desjardins said council felt that the initial two nights would be sufficient.

“We’re trying to stay outside the budget process so that’s the challenge we have,” said Mayor Barb Desjardins.

“It’s really important to council that all members participate. This is going to be a major process and a major decision within the municipality, and everyone felt that it was important that they be there.”

Victoria Coun. Geoff Young, chairman of the CRD’s core area liquid waste management committee, said the “leisurely process” in Esquimalt is a concern.

“I was surprised they would not have run that [Saturday] hearing as long as they needed to hear everyone, and then be able to make a decision, I assumed, at their Monday meeting. I’m surprised they will wait until April 7,” Young said.

He said Esquimalt’s hearings were only three hours long, noting that Victoria council has often carried on with hearings well past midnight.

“I believe the original intention for that decision was early in February,” he said. “Even the current schedule represents a delay, so I am quite concerned at an April 7 date.”

Representatives of Seaterra, the civilian commission overseeing the $783-million sewage treatment project, estimate costs are mounting at a rate of $1 million every month the project is delayed.

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