In addition to voting for the township’s next mayor and council this fall, Esquimalt residents will get to answer a non-binding referendum question on their election ballots about the future of the Esquimalt Village Plan.
“I think at a referendum you get a better cross-section (of people), albeit it’s not the greatest, but it’s better than what we get at public hearings,” said Coun. Bruce McIldoon at a committee-of-the-whole meeting Monday night.
The ballot question will ask residents to vote yes or no to allowing the Township to adopt changes to the official community plan and zoning bylaws that would pave the way for the development of phase one of the Esquimalt Village Plan.
The referendum comes after the village plan stalled after drawing the ire of residents unhappy at living in what they say could be the shadow of an eight-storey residential-commercial tower and a 12-storey condominium in Municipal Square.
Mayor Barb Desjardins and Coun. Lynda Hundleby opposed holding a referendum. Coun. Don Linge was absent from the meeting.
“I’m actually uncomfortable with the idea of having a referendum, partly because I don’t think it gives us the full information that we’re looking for,” Hundleby said. “I know it gives us a hint or a flavour, but what does it really mean in terms of the hint?”
The village plan has been in the works for the past five years, and there were several opportunities along the way for residents to provide input, said Desjardins.
“This may suggest to them that we negate all of that input, that we have not heard them, that their input over the last five years doesn’t mean enough to us to be able to make a decision, and that really bothers me," Desjardins said.
According to township staff, the referendum won’t mean additional expense for taxpayers since it will coincide with a municipal general election on Nov. 19. A second public hearing on the village plan will be held next spring.
Workers are now in the process of dismantling the old public works yard and former municipal hall, where the proposed development could be built.