Esquimalt council faces a tough decision in the next few weeks, that of rezoning lands targeted for a sewage treatment plant.
Ahead of that decision, residents of the small municipality will gather in great numbers at a hockey arena more often used to host lacrosse games in early summer than citizen forums.
A public hearing will give council members a chance to hear what their constituents really think, among other things, about a) putting the main treatment plant at McLoughlin Point, b) what kinds of uses are appropriate for the land and c) whether rejecting the Capital Regional District’s rezoning application will send the project back to the drawing board or simply force the hand of God (the province) to order rezoning.
It’s not as if Esquimalt’s elected officials don’t already know how their residents feel. If they didn’t feel dumped on enough by the CRD’s choice of McLoughlin Point for the main plant, the prospect of a biosolids centre on Viewfield Road got their blood boiling – even if that issue is not up for discussion at the public hearing.
Esquimalt Residents’ Association co-chair Nick Kovacs says the CRD has done a poor job convincing people they have any say in the matter.
As such, he says, people look at sewage treatment like the way the HST was forced on the province by the B.C. Liberal government.
The CRD has already spent in excess of $20 million in the planning stages for the provincially mandated project and appointed an independent sewage commission to oversee project design and construction, not to mention pencilled in early July for a start on building at McLoughlin Point. It has little appetite to look at other options if Esquimalt says no.
By mistakenly assuming the township would fall in step with the project timeline, the CRD has painted itself into a corner and could be forced to ask the province to do the dirty work of forcing Esquimalt to rezone.
Such a scenario would see the voices of Esquimalt people, the most affected by this project, effectively ignored, as many of them feel they largely have been all along.