Residents send Esquimalt village plan back to the drawing board

Holding a print out photo of a cruise ship, Esquimalt resident Gary Mullins showed municipal council what he said would be his view if plans for a new village project are approved.

“I don’t need 100 condos looking down into my yard,” said Mullins, who lives on Carlisle Street across from municipal square – the focus of the proposed redevelopment.

“It’s like parking a cruise ship in front of a house.”

More than 40 Esquimalt residents, anxious about living in what they say will be the shadow of two highrises, flooded council chambers last week.

They demanded council back down from finalizing changes to the township’s official community plan and zoning bylaw that would have allowed a mixed-use commercial and residential building up to eight storeys high, and a condominium with a maximum 12 storeys near Municipal Hall.

For two hours citizens streamed to the microphone with worries over noise, height, shade, pollution, traffic and parking problems the towers could potentially create. A petition with more than 100 signatures fighting the project was also submitted.

Many neighbours demanded the project be included as a referendum question on the November municipal election ballot.

“It would be twice the height of any building in Esquimalt, except for Swallows Landing (featuring two nine-storey towers in the township),” said Carlisle Street resident Jim Hesketh.

New condos don’t make sense in a community where similar buildings, such as the Ovation on Esquimalt Road, are struggling to fill units, he said.

Council agreed, and with a unanimous show of six hands it promised to postpone approving bylaw changes indefinitely.

“I learned things tonight that I hadn’t heard before … that a 12-storey building doesn’t belong in a village,” said Coun. Lynda Hundleby.

The purpose of the plan was to attract parties interested in leasing or buying the land, or partnering with the township on a redevelopment, in the hopes of attracting new residents and businesses.

“We know that project is always going to be developed,” said Mayor Barb Desjardins. “This project is valuable to Esquimalt. It’s a game-changer.”

Plans to demolish the old township hall and former public works buildings will be discussed at a committee-of-the-whole meeting June 13.


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