Victoria considers making green spaces no-build zones; could nix pool plan

Victoria might have to abandon the idea of building a new Crystal Pool on Central Middle School grounds if a motion proposed by councillors Marianne Alto and Sharmarke Dubow passes today.

The motion proposes a number of criteria for locating new city facilities — like the pool — including that they not be built on existing green space.

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Victoria has been looking to find a site for a new pool complex since council abandoned the idea of building it in Central Park adjacent to the existing pool.

Concerns from neighbours about loss of greenspace and potential parking impacts prompted council to talk to RG Properties about locating the new pool on the Save On Foods Memorial Centre parking lot.

Unable to reach a deal, city staff were directed to explore other options for a pool location that might include complementary uses such as affordable housing, green space, childcare and parking.

That resulted in a proposal to put the new pool on the playing field west of Central Middle School — an option Mayor Lisa Helps called exciting, especially with the potential for shared use with the school district.

But conversations with neighbourhood groups have resulted in “a consistent message sent to city council that existing parks shouldn’t be reduced by building any type of facilities inside the parks,” Alto said. “I’m not sure that all of council is going to agree with that,” she said.

Her motion calls on council to hear from the North Park Neighbourhood Association at its June 6 committee of the whole meeting and refer consideration of the pool site to a future meeting, to be determined by council.

Alto said the motion doesn’t necessarily rule out Central Middle School as a pool site.

Facilities could still be built on green space if that space is replaced elsewhere, Alto said, although she conceded that, as worded, the motion does not permit that. “None of this is new from the perspective that it’s all in our strategic plan. What’s new about this is we have an actual project to which we can apply these to see if it works.”

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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