Esquimalt council no longer caught in web of political process

Discussion can continue on contentious village plan

Esquimalt council’s tongues are no longer tied about proposed development plans for the township square.

Council untangled itself from a conundrum of a political process at Monday night’s special council meeting after, they say, they inadvertently voted on May 16 to muzzle themselves from speaking further about the village plan.

“I’m pleased that we’ve found a way to be able to move forward on this,” said Mayor Barb Desjardins. “I know it was uncomfortable for us. I know it was uncomfortable for the public.

“However, we’ve done some very good work. We know this process, should we ever be caught again.”

In May, council responded to a slew of residents’ complaints about the village plan by indefinitely postponing future discussion about changing the township’s zoning bylaw and official community plan near Municipal Hall, between Esquimalt Road and Carlisle Street.

Those changes would have made it possible for a commercial and residential building up to eight storeys high, and a condominium up to 12 storeys tall to go up, which some residents say is too high.

Council agreed Monday to rescind the postponement, allow further consideration of the plan and hold a second public hearing on the issue in spring 2012.

In May, Coun. Don Linge said his motion was meant to give the township and residents more time to reconsider the village plan with a clean slate.

Until that meeting, Brame said 60 per cent of residents who provided input on the plan favoured the project.

“Then all of a sudden we heard (at the May meeting) that (more) people were against it,” Brame said. “I think that’s where Don was coming from, ‘Wait, let’s back up the bus a little bit and come back to this.’

“Okay, it got us into a bit of a quagmire, but that was more the feeling there,” Brame said.

Carlisle Street resident Jim Hesketh, who lives beside the municipal square, said he remains “hot under the collar” that there has been no public consultation throughout the village plan process.

“(Council) didn’t hear or they didn’t get the answer that they wanted so they basically postponed (discussion) indefinitely…to avoid a yes or no vote at that (May) meeting,” Hesketh said.

Esquimalt staff is now in the process of developing a referendum question about the village plan that could be included on the municipal election ballot on Nov. 19.

emccracken@vicnews.com