A contentious project by Aragon Properties to dismantle a beloved Esquimalt neighbourhood park has the developer back at the drawing board.
Aragon plans to renovate the English Inn and build a 180-unit condo development on the adjacent property. With an influx of residents, a new fire access lane is required and the original plan meant demolishing Hither Green, home to a toddler playground, mature foliage and park benches, for a paved route. Aragon’s design, voted down by council at a meeting last month, was presented as a mixed-use area to double as a ‘park’ and provide access for emergency vehicles.
It was standing room only as residents of the neighbourhood surrounding Hither Green Park took to the microphone expressing their objections to council.
Scott Banister, who lives in the neighbourhood with his wife and family said the community is in favour of development, but not at the expense of their quality of life, a sentiment echoed by many who spoke.
Landscape architects presented three alternate plans to explain how they arrived at using the small green space along Bewdley Avenue. But residents called it bad planning on Aragon’s part, asking them to instead use part of the grounds of the English Inn, the adjacent property they purchased.
“My twin brother and I spent many hours at that park [growing up],” Luke Ishizaki said. “I’d be very upset to see Hither Green Park get changed.”
Coun. Beth Burton-Krahn was first to suggest that Aragon find an alternative route for a fire access lane. “This is a small park, it’s a neglected park, it’s forlorn,” she said. “[But] it’s our park.”
Ishizaki’s mother and longtime Esquimalt resident, Lorraine Nygaard, gasped when council voted 5-2 to halt the project’s current plan.
“Everyone was deeply concerned within their hearts and within their own homes,” she said. “I think council finally heard loud and clear.”
Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins said this week that council is waiting to hear from Aragon regarding a new proposal.