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Esquimalt council to debate ownership of municipal land

Esquimalt residents have gotten a head start on worrying over possible change of ownership of municipal land where two mixed-use towers could one day be built.

“I would like everybody to think very carefully about letting Esquimalt land go to anybody except Esquimalt,” said longtime Esquimalt resident Muriel Dunn.

“The McDonald’s is the greatest show of how we let our land go,” she said, referring to the sale of municipal property at 1149 Esquimalt Rd. to the restaurant chain about 10 years ago. “We never should have. We do not want to sell any more Esquimalt land.”

Council will likely begin discussing ownership options for the town square on Jan. 23, including keeping the land, selling it or partnering with one or more developers.

A public information session will also be scheduled so residents can weigh in on land ownership and review the proposed first phase of the Esquimalt Village Plan, which features conceptual plans for two buildings, up to 12 storeys tall, with residential units and commercial and civic space.

Next, a public hearing on the proposed bylaws will happen in February.

One Esquimalt resident questioned the need for a development with more than four storeys at a recent committee-of-the-whole meeting.

"I think first you need to rethink your title for your project. It’s not Esquimalt Village. It might be Esquimalt Downtown,” said John Bergbusch.

He said his view of the Strait of Juan de Fuca from his home on Old Esquimalt Road would be compromised by a 12-storey building.

Fans of the project urged council not to delay.

“We are tired of the look of Esquimalt Road and we want development,” said Esquimalt resident Corey Payne. “Development is what is going to get us going forward."

Staff hope to clear up misunderstandings about the village plan. Its message: no developer is waiting in the wings to transform the town square.

“I think it would be worthwhile to have another information meeting before the actual public hearing to clarify some of that information,” said Barbara Snyder, Esquimalt’s director of development services.

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