Path ahead bright for Esquimalt, says mayor

Coming year to feature many opportunities for community engagement

As Esquimalt’s mayor, Barb Desjardins is paid to be the biggest cheerleader for her municipality.

So, even with some tough decisions coming down in 2014 that will go a long way toward shaping the township in future, for better or worse, the mayor is ebullient talking about the year ahead.

“We have nothing but positives coming forward,” she says.

Desjardins lists such major initiatives as the resolution of the sewage treatment plant proposal for McLoughlin Point near Workpoint, a review of the official community plan, and moving on the results of Esquimalt’s economic round table discussions as key items in this year of action for the Capital Region’s fifth-largest municipality.

An upcoming public hearing on a deal for the construction and operation of sewage plant, hammered out in December by Capital Regional District board members, is clearly the most pressing item on local residents’ plates.

Expected sometime in February, after council has met to discuss the package of mitigation, amenities and compensation for Esquimalt, the hearing is the second such gathering on the project and could well determine whether the facility proceeds on this site at all.

While they are two separate undertakings, the review of the Esquimalt OCP and the economic round table discussions are intertwined.

The review, Desjardins says, “is huge, because it’s a way the community is engaged and has a say in what their community will look like in future.”

In terms of economic development, she has had a fair bit of feedback from the talks, set to wrap up early this year. “We’ve heard some very clear messages as to how to move forward,” the mayor says, adding such projects as the on-hold Esquimalt Village Project have been among the priorities identified.

“(This year) is about putting some of those ideas into practice and making things happen.”

Other important developments include the finalization of a updated policing framework between Esquimalt and Victoria, and working to create improved traffic flow through the municipality from CFB Esquimalt and the increasingly busy Victoria Shipyards facility.

All told Desjardins, like her council counterparts, heads into this election year excited about the prospects for overall growth.

“Esquimalt has done really well in terms of getting through the economic downturn,” she says. “We’ve had two years of zero-per-cent tax increases and still have had some major infrastructure projects move forward.”

In this time of municipal restraint, that’s saying something.