MUNICIPAL ELECTION: Esquimalt referendum results could make way for town square

Bylaw changes needed before concept drawings become reality

In addition to voting for six council candidates, eligible voters in Esquimalt will have one more question to answer on their ballots in the upcoming municipal election.

The non-binding referendum question asks for a yes or no answer to allowing the township to adopt changes to zoning and the official community plan bylaws, permitting two towers – one up to eight storeys of residential units with commercial space and 20,000 square feet of civic space at the ground floor, and another residential building up to 12 storeys – to go up in the town square near municipal hall.

“Our message is that depending on the outcome of the question on the election ballot, that’ll give council direction which way they want to go,” said Barbara Snyder, director of Esquimalt’s development services. “Do they want to move this ahead as it is (or) do they tinker with it a little bit, redesign it a bit?”

Residents – many living near the square – arrived at council chambers this summer at the 11th hour to stop council from approving the Esquimalt Village Plan, which is still just a concept on paper. They expressed outrage over the proposed building heights.

As a result, council agreed to use the referendum as an information-gathering tool.

“Quite often what happens is when something goes to a public hearing only the people who are opposed to it will show up and voice their opinion,” Snyder said.

A second public hearing on the issue is tentatively scheduled for early 2012.

Voting happens 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 9, Nov. 16 and on general election day on Nov. 19 at Esquimalt Municipal Hall, 1229 Esquimalt Rd.

For election or referendum details, please visit www.esquimalt.ca.

A referendum vote will not be held in Victoria this year.