Proposed development sparks look at changes to Esquimalt’s view of West Bay

Community input sought in development of design guidelines

The West Bay neighbourhood of Esquimalt is the focus of proposed new urban design guidelines meant to shape a clear, long-term vision that balances the needs and desires of residents, business owners and developers.

“The problem is the (current official community plan) design guidelines for West Bay are the same as the design guidelines for some of the property along Esquimalt Road,” said Bill Brown, Esquimalt’s director of development services. “West Bay is something different. In my opinion, it deserves its very own unique set of design guidelines.”

With council’s approval, Brown developed a set of draft guidelines in recent months in response to a development proposal for a 10-storey residential tower with ground-floor commercial space. It would be located on a triangle-shaped parcel of land at the meeting of Head, Gore and Lyall streets.

It’s not unusual for municipalities to make changes to their OCPs in the face of active development applications, Brown said. “There’s nothing for us to adjudicate (the current) application against. A building of that size is going to have substantial impacts on the neighbourhood.”

Prominent West Bay property and business owner Mark Lindholm is behind the proposal. It has generated outrage from neighbouring business owners and residents, who say it does not fit in with the commercial marine village feel of the neighbourhood, home to single-family and float residences and small marine businesses.

“This project is a major departure from that direction,” said Carole Witter, who lives in the neighbourhood and is co-owner of Hidden Harbour Marine Centre.

Her comments echo statements made by the West Bay Neighbourhood Association. “Not only is it a major departure, it is actually a threat to what exists here,” she said.

Lindholm did not respond to the News‘ requests to speak to the matter.

Among Witter’ other concerns were that the area be protected as a natural resource, one that serves as a waterfront recreational destination. She added that the proposed high-density tower is out of scale with the current neighbourhood.

For that reason, she supports a clear vision for West Bay in Esquimalt’s OCP.

The community has until July 15 to provide feedback on the proposed West Bay urban design guidelines and can do so by calling Brown at 250-414-7146. Another public input meeting will be held in the fall, before council considers the proposed OCP amendment.

emccracken@vicnews.com