Aragon Properties’ website states that the company “contributes to neighbourhoods with undiscovered potential.”
It’s a claim disputed by 26 residents of Bewdley Avenue when it comes to the company’s approach to the neighbourhood park, which is included in Aragon’s plans to development on the former site of the English Inn at 429 Lampson St. Last Tuesday those residents submitted a petition to Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins opposing Aragon’s plans to change the nature of Hither Green Park, the neighbourhood’s only children’s park and a long-time oasis in the community.
The company’s proposal calls for broad paved surfaces, park benches and aromatic plantings encapsulated by wooden colonnades for the Mediterranean garden and drifts of tall ornamental grasses, sweeps of pebbles, boulders and decked seating for the seaside garden.
But many Bewdley Avenue residents are not in favor of the proposed changes.
“It’s all pretense to cover up the mistake made in planning the development,” said long-time resident, Linda Barnes.
“They’re pretending this is a good thing when the real reason for taking our park away is the developers didn’t factor emergency access to their condo development,” she added. “Now they want to hard surface the park so fire trucks and emergency vehicles have access to the development. Let them use their own land, not take away the park our children have played in for generations.”
Patty Pakvis, who operates a bed and breakfast on Bewdley, said she’d likely have to close down her business as a result of the changes in the neighbourhood.
“They’ve taken away the playground already and now they want to cut down trees and take away the green space. It’s the only children’s play space in our neighbourhood and they want to take away grass and put in cement and rock,” she said.
The Aragon development, which includes 180 condo units, borders on Hither Green Park, which provides a potential throughway to the residences from Bewdley Avenue. It thereby would satisfy the B.C. Building Code requirement for secondary access for emergency vehicles.
“This was the solution our architects proposed,” said Luke Ramsey, Aragon’s development co-ordinator, adding that he can see how the neighbours don’t see the hard surface park as ideal. “Once it’s all done, I think they’ll be happy with it, Anyway, we don’t want to compromise the safety of the (condo) residents by not having this emergency access.”
Desjardins said she is aware of the residents’ concerns and is adamant the proposed park redevelopment is far from a done deal.
“I think there’s a lot of confusion about what’s going on. We heard the public’s concern and sent it (the park redevelopment concept) back to staff and the developer to come up with some alternate plans,” she said. “I know they’ve been working on it and are scheduled to come back to council in June. Until then, nothing is going to happen on that site.
The public will have an opportunity to appear at an upcoming council meeting to voice their opinions on the project.