Posted by: Editor | October 8, 2009

Build It and They Will Come

Build It and They Will Come

Build it and they will come…or maybe not. That’s what Esquimalt residents have to think about.

In the past week, two public workshops were hosted by Esquimalt Municipal Hall to explore changes to our Official Community Plan (OCP) that could increase our community’s height and density policies. Currently, building heights are limited to ten storeys with a loop hole that allows Council to approve larger projects if a developer is willing to contribute private funds towards such amenities as child care facilities, public art, parks, special-needs housing, street enhancements, public recreation facilities, or heritage preservation.

The question for Esquimalt is: do we like the way we are now or do we want a community makeover for ourselves? If it is the latter, then we need to examine strategies on how to better market Esquimalt to developers to invest in projects that will increase the social and economic value of our community.

Esquimalt is a naturally beautiful place, but we certainly have our share of downright ugly, run-down, outdated apartment buildings scattered around town, particularly along Esquimalt Road. Landowners will only tear down those eye-sore buildings and replace them with more attractive, modern housing if it is profitable. The new Ovation development at the 1300-block of Esquimalt Road is a prime example. Its profit margin remains to be seen.

Developers currently argue that Esquimalt’s land is not valuable enough to warrant major demolition and redevelopment projects. They have indicated to Municipal Hall that our OCP is too restrictive. Meanwhile, our local politicians are struggling to balance the budget without having to increase our taxes too dramatically. The revenue from new developments would certainly improve Esquimalt’s coffers.

In the middle of all this discussion and debate, we have the 17-storey Legion Tower proposal at 620 Admirals sitting idle with all of us wondering whether it will be approved or not, should it be approved or not, and what will be the impact on our community? Will it serve as a major precedent for all future development? Will it increase our community’s property values? When combined with the Ovation across the street, will it be the catalyst that brings further redevelopment? With more residents living in the area, will it attract a better stock of local businesses and community services?

Proponents argue that it will be a major positive change for Esquimalt that will begin the community-wide process of growth and revitalization. Skeptics are reserving judgment, pointing out that there is no guarantee that a few super-sized projects will lead the way to a better Esquimalt. Instead, we could just end up with a hodge-podge of luxury towers with no community improvements surrounding them.

In all of this discussion, it is important to note that we are essentially only talking about Esquimalt Village, Esquimalt Road/Head Street intersection, Craigflower & Tillicum Road intersection, and West Bay Harbour. These are neighbourhoods where Municipal Hall is considering adding height and density.

The entire community, however, will be impacted in one way or another. After all, we are talking about our identity as a community, who we are and how we live.

Read these three important documents (click on the links) and make your voice heard:

1) Official Community Plan information:

 http://www.esquimalt.ca/files/PDF/Municipal_Services/Workshop_Presentation__Material_for_Web2.pdf

2) Height and density Powerpoint presentation:

 http://www.esquimalt.ca/files/PDF/Municipal_Services/H_D_Workshop_Powerpoint_presentation.pdf

3) Worksheet on building heights and density:

http://www.esquimalt.ca/files/PDF/Municipal_Services/Workshop_worksheet.pdf

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Responses

  1. I am 100% in favour of development on private property in Esquimalt… providing there is sufficient parking required for ALL development.

    Including municipal.
    Including commercial.

    The current state of parking in the core is atrocious, and an inexcusable oversight by previous councils.

    Anyone with eyes can see that infilling and acquiescing to things like illegal suites and ‘swaps’ to add greenspace instead of the legally required parking amenities has congested streets and created tax havens for residents who think their street frontage is their property so they can control it.

    Reinstate parking requirements, and remove them from ‘negotiable’ items in developments. Remove ‘resident only’ signs everywhere they appear: residents can provide their own off-street parking, or cope with the mess Esquimalt has made of the issue, perhaps to pressure Esquimalt to fix it.

  2. Council is proposing commercial development of 12 story buildings on property that is presently owned by Esquimalt. This would mean a huge change to our community. As instead of having land available for community oriented development such as the proposed art gallery, new seniors centre, etc we get buildings that are incompatible with their neighbourhoods … .

    I keep wondering how those who seem to be in favour of slipping these high density towers into our community (Mayor Barb Desjardins, Don Linge, Lynda Hundleby, and Meagan Brame) reconcile giving valuable community property to developers with their dreams for new tax revenue.


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