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Esquimalt considers land-ownership options

Esquimalt council will learn next month the value of municipal land where the former public works building and old municipal hall stood until they were torn down last year.

Council will then be better able to discuss selling or keeping the land, located near the current Municipal Hall at 1229 Esquimalt Rd. The third option is entering a public-private partnership.

The township is looking to rezone the township square to allow for two mixed-use buildings, up to eight- and 12-storeys high, to be built. That vision is still just a concept on paper.

Council will likely hear from staff on ownership options and the land’s value in March, said Mayor Barb Desjardins.

“Land is an asset, but it’s only an asset in how you use it,” she said.

“With this property you have the option of leasing for long term. What’s the value to the municipality to receive the land and the property back in 100 years, or whatever the length of the term is? What are the risks of doing that?”

Another option is the township entering a public-private partnership.

“There’s a value (to that) because you’re still an owner and you have control over it, but a public-private partnership requires a lot of expertise, and a lot of capacity from your staff to make sure things are going as they should,” Desjardins said.

Staff said in a report to council recently that they couldn’t manage that partnership, and that the expertise would have to be outsourced.

The mayor acknowledged that some residents don’t support selling off the land.

However, that option would allow the township to collect taxes on the property, Desjardins noted.

Selling it may also mean having “a greater ability to provide community benefit or amenities,” such as possibly relocating the Esquimalt branch of the Greater Victoria Public Library from its cramped quarters at Municipal Hall to one of the proposed buildings envisioned for the township square.

Alternately, the municipal archives, currently located beneath McDonald’s on Esquimalt Road, could be relocated to the site.

“In order to ... have those community benefits you want to realize the best value for the property,” Desjardins said. “Is it with scenario one, two or three?”

 

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