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Esquimalt digging in for better sewage deal

A tentative deal meant to entice Esquimalt council into approving a sewage plant looks dead in the water, but the township isn’t giving up hope of a sweeter deal just yet.

Esquimalt and Capital Regional District staff spent a month negotiating a plan for a wastewater treatment facility at McLoughlin Point, but regional politicians punted the idea back to CRD staff Nov. 13 because it lacked concrete cost estimates for barging materials to the site.

Esquimalt’s wish list includes a $100,000 waterfront pathway around McLoughlin Point; a $100,000 allowance for public art; greater setbacks from other properties and the roadway; upgraded pedestrian and cycling pathways along Lyall Street; the barging of all materials to a constructed dock to avoid truck traffic; and $55,000 annually for five years as a community impact mitigation fee.

The township also wants an ongoing community liaison committee and strict odour monitoring at the site once operational.

“CRD staff agreed to those things, and they agreed to those things within the understanding of their budget,” said Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins.

Desjardins added eight meetings took place to negotiate the plan. Further negotiations will likely push rezoning approval into 2014 and impact the CRD’s project timeline.

Once approved, Esquimalt will still need to undertake public hearings with many residents who now distrust CRD motives, said Coun. Dave Hodgins.

“A lot of that package is things that had to be done regardless. I wouldn’t say it’s a sweet deal, but it’s something we could live with,” he said.

“But the public I’ve heard from have no support in what’s being proposed at all. So now, when you have some opportunity for some potential agreements, people say, ‘Don’t do it.’ There’s absolutely no trust between many members of the public and the CRD.”

Under provincial law, B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak could intervene to force rezoning, but she currently has no plans to do so, said a ministry spokesperson.

“At this time, the provincial government has not set any deadline for an agreement between the CRD and Esquimalt, but does stand by the approved schedule for treatment and continues to work with all parties,” the spokesperson said.

CRD board chair Alistair Bryson said he sees the rationale in providing Esquimalt with incentives to host the sewage facility, but potential cost increases are concerning.

“Obviously as decisions become delayed, it tightens up the timeframe for implementation,” he said.

The current timeline calls for construction to begin next summer at McLoughlin Point, while the overall project is scheduled for completion by 2018.

The CRD committee responsible for sewage treatment is next scheduled to meet Dec. 11, but will likely meet earlier, Desjardins said.

“What’s most important to me is for the residents to have their say and to get the best possible deal for those residents,” she said.

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