Marina unsafe for paddlers: Savoie

Members of the public got a close look at the details of a controversial mega-yacht marina proposed for the Songhees, from costs to environmental impacts, size and architecture at an open house sponsored by the developer yesterday.

From the Harbour Room of the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort, developer Bob Evans outlined nearly all aspects of his $20-million project. There were power-point presentations, artists renditions of the grounds from virtually every angle and a model of the two modern-looking, glass-enclosed buildings that will flank the 48-slip marina and house the restaurant and cafe.

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There were architects, economists, developers and Evans himself -- a partner with Alberta's Western Asset Management Development Group -- on hand to answer questions from concerned residents and interested boaters about the marina.

But as crowds milled about the open house, dozens of paddlers gathered on the Songhees shoreline passing around a petition against the project.

Victoria MP Denise Savoie, one of the project's fiercest opponents, said the marina will make it unsafe for paddlers who traverse the already-crowded and choppy Inner Harbour.

Evans tried to appease angry paddlers with a diagram of the open access areas for kayaks and canoes which would be free to roam around the marina. It touted a 7.5-to-15-metre wide clearance between the paddling route and the float plane taxiway.

One local paddler Allan Mandell called it a good compromise with the paddling community.

But Savoie responded to that effort saying: "Imagine you are at the level these [kayaks and canoes] are and you have a three-storey boat next to you ... plus the waves, think about how safe you would feel."

Ultimately the marina will benefit Victoria, injecting millions into the economy during tough financial times, Evans said. A city-wide poll, conducted for the developers by Environics Group, showed 71 per cent of Victorians see the economic benefits that the marina would bring.

There are environmental benefits also, Evans said. Dredging the seabed, required to make room for the yachts, will bring back sea life threatened when 32,000 cubic metres of wood chips were dumped there years ago. Evans said construction will likely start in September for completion by the summer of 2010.

kderosa@tc.canwest.com

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