Editorials

Esquimalt Review was published by Tim Morrison from 2009 to 2011. It ceased publication in September, 2011.

Archived Editorials by Esquimalt Review founding editor Tim Morrison (2009-2011):

Click here: From Keyboard to Candidate Posted by: Tim Morrison on September 14, 2011

Click here: Let the People Decide Posted by: Tim Morrison on September 13, 2011

Click here: Shining a Light on Esquimalt Posted by: Tim Morrison on September 12, 2011

Click here: A New ERA for Esquimalt Posted by: Tim Morrison on September 11, 2011

Click here:  Music to our Years Posted by: Tim Morrison on September 8, 2011

Click here:  Grappling with Graffiti Posted by: Tim Morrison on September 6, 2011

Click here: Orchestras to Orchids  Posted by: Tim Morrison on September 4, 2011

Click here: Back to School Posted by: Tim Morrison on September 1, 2011

Click here: How I Spent My Summer   Posted by: Tim Morrison on August-‎27, 2011

Click here: It Takes a Village to Rage a Community Posted by: Tim Morrison on June 19, 2011

Click here: Potty Mouths Posted by: Tim Morrison on June 18, 2011

Click here: These are the People in Your Neighbourhood: Laura Barnes and Ken Gustafson Posted by: Tim Morrison on June 12, 2011

Click here: Mayor’s Monthly Musing for June, 2011 Posted by: Tim Morrison on June 10, 2011

Click here: These are the People in Your Neighbourhood: Colin MacLock  Posted by: Tim Morrison on June 5, 2011

Click here: Councillor Gaul: Say it Ain’t So… Posted by: Tim Morrison on June 6, 2011

Click here: Yo-ho-ho, and a Bundle of Fun! Posted by: Tim Morrison on June 10, 2011

Click here: Third Time Lucky for…..Garrison  Posted by: Tim Morrison on May 2, 2011

Click here: Third Time Lucky Posted by: Tim Morrison on April 30, 2011

Click here: All Politics is Local!  Posted by: Tim Morrison on April 23, 2011

Click here: Budget Crunch Bites Taxpayers Posted by: Tim Morrison on April 17, 2011

Click here: Cop Shock Posted by: Tim Morrison on April 17, 2011

April-16, 2011 | Tim Morrison
April-13, 2011 | Tim Morrison Click here:Heart and Soul

April-11, 2011 | Tim Morrison    Click here: These are the People in Your Neighbourhood: Lorraine Nygaard

April-10, 2011 | Tim Morrison

Click here: Mayor’s Monthly Musings for April, 2011

April-07, 2011 | Tim Morrison
February-06, 2011 | Tim Morrison 
February-05, 2011 | Tim Morrison

Click here: Faulty Towers

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ARCHIVED EDITORIALS:
 February 1, 2011 | Tim Morrison

Mayor’s Monthly Musings for January, 2011.

Attention Residents: A New Year Means a New Budget.

Mayor’s Report by Barb Desjardins

Council’s third year and final year of this term has come quickly. There is still much to be done, and many decisions to be made. This year is a time when it is even more important for residents to be attentive to what is happening both at Esquimalt’s Council table as well as what is happening within the region at the CRD’s Board table.

Decisions have been made over the past two years that have influence on our community’s well being. Some have been very positive while others may not be so.

Residents will have the opportunity this fall to determine whether they want and support the current direction, or if they feel change is needed. Voting during the municipal election is a very powerful tool and should be used by all who are eligible.

The Esquimalt community needs to take bold steps toward growth. We are blessed with the services that are provided within our municipality. We have our own recreation center, arena, and significant park system. Esquimalt has its own fire department and its own library. Esquimalt has a municipal police service and provides garbage services. When comparing this to other municipalities throughout the region, Esquimalt provides significant services. These services are paid for by the 17,000 residents and the businesses of Esquimalt through property taxes.

Businesses within Esquimalt, and most if not all municipalities, pay a higher tax rate than residential, and yet in Esquimalt, businesses make up a very small percentage of our tax base.

This is an important point because attracting more businesses within Esquimalt would provide the municipality with greater dollars for the provision of services, and allow the ability to provide the businesses with a better tax rate which would further encourage greater business numbers. Growth of our community is integral to these changes as businesses need customers.

At this time of year, Mayor and Council develop tax rates and policies. Council can move forward to set a tax climate which will fill those chronic business vacancies we see along Esquimalt Road. This can be significant for growth stimulation. Improving the social fabric of our community can only be supported in this way.

Council will begin the budget process on Feb 7, 2011. I encourage you to watch, listen and participate. It is your hard earned cash we will be deliberating about. Mayor and Council want and need to hear from you as to how we determine the taxation of those precious dollars we collect and how we spend them on your behalf.

Respectfully submitted by:

Barb Desjardins

Mayor, Township of Esquimalt

To provide input on this topic, email Mayor Desjardins at mayor@esquimalt.ca or post a comment on this blog.

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Wage Rage

 January-24, 2011 | Tim Morrison

Wage Rage

 – Esquimalt Council becomes one of only a few municipalities in Canada to adopt a living wage policy (sort of) despite community-wide opposition.

Last Monday, Council experienced one of its less stellar moments of their entire three year term. They got bogged down in a divisive debate and a split 4-3 vote in favour of a policy that, while purporting to help alleviate poverty, does nothing of the sort. The futility culprit is something called a Living Wage policy.

The policy was devised by the Community Social Planning Council of Greater Victoria which calculates that two full-time working parents of two children in the Capital Region need to earn at least $17.30 an hour to pay for basics such as shelter, clothing, transportation and food.

Who can argue with that? We all know that the CRD is an expensive place to live and we all struggle to pay our bills. But, our lives certainly wouldn’t be made any better or affordable if we had hefty new property tax increases to worry about in order to heavily subsidize the wages of people working both directly and indirectly for Esquimalt. That list would include municipal staff, teenage employees, casual workers, and contract workers belonging to private companies that do business with Esquimalt.

”For me, supporting a living wage is about making sure Esquimalt is a healthy and sustainable community and one where everyone is treated fairly,” said Councillor Randall Garrison, the policy’s main proponent. “How can we justify the fact that many Esquimalt residents go to work every day, work hard, and yet still don’t earn enough to provide the basics for their family?”

Mayor Barb Desjardins, however, doesn’t see it that way.

“The adoption of this policy as it stands shows an initial small cost to the municipality,” said Desjardins. “However, with a rise in the (collective agreement) base pay level comes upward pressure on other pay levels which would present significant increases in costs overall.”

“We are a small community within a large urban area. It is my concern that this policy may significantly affect who will be willing to do business with our municipality. Not because the business doesn’t want to pay these wages but because they can’t. Other municipalities do not have the same policy and therefore business can be achieved elsewhere,” added Desjardins.

Many in the community agree with Mayor Desjardins. Members of the Esquimalt Residents Association (including yours truly) and the Esquimalt Chamber of Commerce came out in droves to raise their opposition to the policy. Essentially, as taxpayers, we did not want our Council to embrace a policy that would leave us holding a bill with a giant question mark on it.

When it became apparent that Garrison’s broader policy, along with its serious financial implications, was not going to pass, Councillor Meagan Brame and Councilor Ali Gaul intervened with an “alternative” living wage policy, a watered down version that cannot be applied to municipal employee wages, but would still apply to private sector workers employed by companies that perform contracts more than six months long or worth more than $100,000. However, it was pointed out that this requirement already currently exists within the municipality’s collective agreement section on contracting out. The new policy also stipulates that council should review the policy’s hourly rate, costs and benefits every three years.

Hence, two and half convoluted hours later, Council opted to adopt a living wage policy that was essentially a policy about nothing. The elder –and wiser- members of Council (Desjardins, Lynda Hundleby & Don Linge) were visibly frustrated as they cast their votes in opposition.

“I don’t get it,” declared Councillor Lynda Hundleby in her characteristically soft spoken manner. Hundbley’s puzzlement was shared by the dozens of local residents and business owners in attendance.

“This was a tough night for all of Council,” said Councillor Meagan Brame.  “There were two definite sides to this issue. (The original proposal) was not an option for me when I heard the public input on spending no money.  I heard them and that is why I made this really a no cost to township policy.”

“Philosophically though, I know that people need to be paid more to make ends meet in our region.  I think that it is good for us as councillors to know what is needed to live before going to budget – it helps us know where our priorities lie,” added Brame. “My motion was put there so that we could be aware of the issues, but not make it a tax burden to our already strapped residents.  It was a compromise – acknowledging the struggles we all face when it comes to finances.”

“I supported Councillor Brame’s motion because she listened to the concerns brought forward from the public and attempted to address each of them directly within the motion,” said Councillor Ali Gaul. “I also supported her motion because the Living Wage calculation and subsequent discussion has given me valuable insight into the affordability of our community as we approach the budget.  The public input has been significant, passionate and divided.  It hasn’t been an easy process, but I believe it has been a valuable one.”

The final staff report for a revised Living Wage policy in Esquimalt is expected to return to Council in March. With pressing issues such as the annual budget & property taxes, selecting a new policing contract, and continuing the fight against the CRD sewage treatment plan, our Council would do much better to focus on the issues that we actually elected them to deal with rather than drowning themselves in the latest social policy du jour that we clearly cannot afford to waste our money nor time on.

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Let the Games Begin

 January 23, 2011 | Tim Morrison

Let the Games Begin

– Esquimalt Hometown Favourites Go National

With a federal election buzz flowing across the nation, two of the three major political parties in Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca are featuring candidates from right here in our very own town of Esquimalt. The vast Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca riding serves a population of over 120,000 constituents including Esquimalt, Langford, View Royal, Colwood, Metchosin, Sooke, and parts of Saanich.

The two Esquimalt residents in the race are the NDP’s Randall Garrison, a municipal councillor and college instructor, and the Liberal’s David Hodgins, a former BC Fire Commissioner and recognized expert on emergency management including a stint as Assistant Deputy Minister for the province’s Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General.

Garrison was officially nominated by the NDP on January 23 with a guest appearance by leader Jack Layton at the Archie Browning Centre. More information on Garrison’s campaign is at www.randallgarrison.ca.

David Hodgins hopes to become the official Liberal candidate on February 21st when local Liberals gather to choose between Hodgins and Langford Councillor Lillian Szpak at the St. Joseph-the-Worker Church Hall, 757 West Burnside Road (immediately adjacent to Spectrum) at 7:00 p.m. To be able to participate in the nomination vote, people must be members in good standing of the Liberal Party of Canada and therefore join no later than February 7, 2011.  They need to go to the Liberal Party website at https://action.liberal.ca/en/membership and register to become a member. Esquimalt residents interested in supporting Hodgins can contact him by email at e.david.hodgins@shaw.ca or telephone at 250-590-2815 and cell at 250-590-0222. His website is: http://www.voteforhodgins.com/

The NDP and Liberal candidates will do battle with the Conservative’s Troy Desouza. Desouza, a lawyer, resides outside of Esquimalt, but is considered the early favourite based on his 68-vote razor thin defeat by Dr. Keith Martin in the last federal go-around of 2008. More info on Desouza is at: http://troydesouza.ca/

There is a famous saying in politics that “all politics is local”. As we approach a widely expected federal election campaign, it is important to ask our federal candidates specifically what they know about Esquimalt issues and what they plan to do about our issues upon arriving in Ottawa. Let the games begin!

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These are the People in Your Neighbourhood: Mari Hall, Esquimalt Lions

 December 3, 2011 | Tim Morrison

These are the People in Your Neighbourhood: Mari Hall, Esquimalt Lions

EsquimaltReview.com continues a  featured series entitled “These are the People in Your Neighbourhood“. In this edition, the Esquimalt Review profiles Esquimalt Lions Club volunteer Mari Hall. If you would like to contribute a community profile about an individual, group, organization, or business in Esquimalt, please send your ideas to Tim Morrison at editor@esquimaltreview.com

She is a Lioness. Hear her Roar.

Esquimalt Lion’s Mari Hall as Mrs. Claus

Meet Mari Hall. If you are a volunteer involved in the local community, you have likely already met her. Mari, or “Mare” as friends call her, is one of those many unsung heroes in Esquimalt who devote a great deal of time in supporting the community and helping others as a volunteer.

Mari first moved to Esquimalt seven years ago and settled in a lovely home on the corner of Grafton and Esquimalt Road. Prior to that, she resided in Sooke where she worked in the parks and recreation department and served as a volunteer firefighter. She has also been a Victoria Downtown Ambassador and is heavily involved as a member of the Esquimalt Lions.

A mother of five and grandmother of three, Mari has always made time for the Lions since first joining in 1987. Over the years, she worked her way up serving in a variety of roles for the Lions including President, Multiple District Lioness Liaison, and Past Zone Chairperson. Currently, she manages public relations for the Esquimalt Lions Club as well as for another 42 Lions Clubs and six Lioness Clubs throughout a vast region.  

So, what is Mari’s favourite part about being an Esquimalt Lion?

“Seeing the individuals in the community being helped by the money that we raise,” says Hall.  “My favourite was how Lions, Lioness pooled together and helped Port Alice when the mill shut down (during) Christmas. Across BC, and even in Ontario, people gave donations and they were delivered by a convoy on December 23, making the town a bit brighter for all that lived there. I am proud to be a Lion & part of that event.”

 And what his her personal specialty?

“My favorite is when I do Mrs. Claus. The children are so excited to see my hubby, Old Nick, and they say such wonderful things.”

Who are the major players within the Esquimalt Lions?

“All members. We must work together as a team to accomplish what needs to be done at work parties or special events for those in need.”

In terms of profile in the community, Esquimalt Lions are very active. They organize such local activities as the “Skate with Santa” at Archie Browning Arena; Esquimalt Fire Department Open House; “Buccaneer Weekend” pancake breakfast, selling pie plates, helping at the Fireman’s dance, & also in the parade; “Celebration of Lights” food concession & parade participation; “Halloween Bonfire” food concession & judging the youth costume parade; Scholarships for Esquimalt youth; “Lantern Festival” security; “Tattoo” security; “Highland Games” food concession; HMCS Protector transporting of children & helping at the Christmas Party; and the “Easter in the Park” food concession, racing competitions, and bonnet contest.

How does the Esquimalt Lions help others?  

“Our motto is ‘We Serve’,” says Hall. “We have helped many in need of hearing aids, eye glasses, seeing-eye dog guides, as well as people with special needs, disabilities and diabetes.”

Esquimalt Lions also financially support the Lions Foundation of Canada, Camp Shawnigan Special Needs, Sponsorships, C.A.R.E., 24 hour relay, Santa’s Parade, both in Victoria and in Esquimalt, and the Victoria Day Parade. They are also heavily committed to seniors and youth in need of a helping hand.

The Esquimalt Lions Club’s 60th Anniversary is fast approaching for 2011 and there has never been a better time to become involved as a member and volunteer. For more information, Mari urges Esquimalt residents to contact President Bill Koski (Phone: 250.474.5217 /email: pdgwwkoski@shaw.ca) or Secretary Bill Emery (Phone: 250.381.2985 /email waemery@telus.net )

Mari sums up the spirit of Esquimalt quite well as a place with “a big heart that is caring for others.” That is certainly true of Esquimalt, and most certainly it is true because of the people that choose to call Esquimalt home.

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Mayor’s Monthly Musings for November, 2010

 December-02-2010 | Tim Morrison

Mayor’s Monthly Musings for November, 2010

– Mayor sets sail on Ottawa to champion Esquimalt’s Excellence in  Shipbuiding

This month, Esquimalt’s Mayor Barb Desjardins writes of her trip to Ottawa to lobby the federal government on behalf of Esquimalt.

Mayor’s Monthly Report

This past month, I travelled to Ottawa to attend the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) “Advocacy Days”. It is important for the Township of Esquimalt to participate at the FCM tables because of the extent of our borders and relationships with federal lands and jurisdictions. FCM is the vehicle by which municipal concerns have an influential voice to our federal government and its decision making.

There were two days of meetings with MPs, Senators and Ministers, where municipal politicians spoke of thanks and of the success of the Economic Action Plan (which provided the funding for our own Archie Browning revitalization). We discussed our nation wide municipal concerns such as downloading of costs for services such as policing, housing, and transit, the infrastructure deficit. We also provide municipal solutions or support to be a part of solutions.

This process has been occurring for several years and has generated significant interest from ‘Ottawa’ and a recognition from all parties in Ottawa that the Economic Stimulus Plan has been a great success and it was in part because of the role municipalities took in making it happen.

I also took the opportunity as Mayor of Esquimalt to meet with key staff within the Ministry of Public Works and Government Services, and Ministry of Labour. This was to promote Esquimalt and our facilities at dockyard to be chosen as one of two centers of excellence for shipbuilding in Canada. The decision as to where these facilities will be sited is complex and a significant component is the partnerships that are in place for dockyard. We, the Township of Esquimalt are one of those important partners. The benefits of having a center of excellence extend far beyond our borders but they include job stability, economic and education growth opportunities, for our town.

Over the past year, I have also had discussions with Minister Day, President of the Treasury Board and Minister for Asia-Pacific Gateway, and Minister Yelich, Minister of State: Western Economic Diversification. With the decision potentially to come in the spring of 2011, I will continue to take the opportunity to promote our dockyard group as the best site for a center of excellence in shipbuilding. Working together, community and industry we will all be able to benefit.

Respectfully submitted by

Mayor Barb Desjardins

Township of Esquimalt

To provide input on this topic, email Mayor Desjardins at mayor@esquimalt.ca or post a comment on this blog

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Sunday, November 28, 2010 | Tim Morrison

Follow the Centennial Brick Road…

-Esquimalt residents invited to purchase inscribed memorial bricks.

As we prepare to say farewell to 2010, Esquimalt is already looking past 2011 and on to 2012 when our community will be celebrating its 100th birthday. Esquimalt residents are already quite active in busily preparing for the celebrations. One such volunteer, Bruce Devitt, provided an update this month to Esquimalt Council on the progress.

A 15-year resident of Esquimalt, Devitt is Vice-Chair of the Centennial Planning Committee and leading the charge on a very specific project to sell personally-inscribed individual bricks to as many Esquimalt community members as possible. The “memorial bricks” will be used to build an Esquimalt Centennial Walkway through Memorial Park.  

“The centennial celebration is an excellent opportunity for every one – individuals, organizations and businesses, to recognize past accomplishments, to celebrate the good in our community today, and leave a legacy for tomorrow,” says Devitt. “The Centennial Walkway Project is a good example: it helps get people together to celebrate the 100 years and leave a legacy for tomorrow.”

“It will become a historic time capsule of our lives in this place we call home,” adds Devitt. “I encourage everyone to buy a brick and get one today. We need to start early so we will have them on hand to build in 2012. Future generations will also be able to add their story. Located in Memorial Park, a designated heritage site, it should survive the years to come.”

Devitt, who also chaired the Esquimalt Recreation Center Revitalization project, is no stranger to community service. He also knows that many others in Esquimalt care deeply about the community and is hoping to sell 1200 bricks, or 100 bricks per month through 2011, in time for the walkway construction to begin in early 2012 with completion by mid-August, 2012.

Brick application forms can be picked up at Esquimalt Municipal Hall, 1229 Esquimalt Road, and the Recreation Centre, 527 Fraser Street. The cost is $100 for a 4”x8” small inscribed brick with three lines of 18 characters per line or $200 to have a large 8”x8” brick with four lines of 18 characters per line.

For more information, click here or download the application form to purchase a brick by clicking here.

The Centennial Walkway in Memorial Park is one of three legacy projects. The other two are a Centennial School Art Scholarship and a Centennial Book being prepared for publication by former Esquimalt archivist Sherri Robinson. Check out the many other Esquimalt Centennial plans, events, and activities by visiting http://www.esquimaltcentennial2012.ca

Esquimalt is a special place. Turning 100 is a special time. We all share an obligation to make it even more special by becoming personally involved.

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Lest We Forget…

November 11, 2010 | Tim Morrison

Lest We Forget…

As the home of a Canadian Forces Base, military life is an integral part of our community.

Hence, today is a very important day in Esquimalt.

This is a special day to pay tribute to the veterans who have courageously served our country in the past as we remember their valiant efforts throughout our nation’s history. This is also an opportunity to show our support for the men and women who currently serve.

Our Canadian military has made many sacrifices in the name of peace, not only for Canada but for many other countries around the world.

Today’s ceremony at the Cenotaph in Memorial Park is symbolic in showing fellow Canadians and our troops that we care and honour those who fought for our freedom, our peace, and our resolve.

We can never forget the sacrifices that our soldiers have made and we must advocate to ensure our veterans receive the services and respect that they have so valiantly earned. We need to be a helping hand to returning soldiers going through the shift from frontline combat to the safety and security of home and family. We need to ensure thousands of vets have access to help for those that need to talk through what they experienced in combat and what they are striving to overcome.

We must take part in the Poppy campaign year after year to serve as a reminder of our responsibility in remembering to remember. We must ensure the tradition of remembrance is observed by Esquimalt every year at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month. We must relive the very special tradition that first began when guns went silent marking the end of World War I and the remembrance began of those who would never return home.

We must always be mindful of our military and support all Canadian troops regardless of their activity being in the past, present, at home or abroad. In addition, we support the families of our soldiers.

We support the crucial need to remind our society’s children and youth that all the freedom and liberty they enjoy today as Canadians came at a cost, one of irreplaceable value. A cost that involved generation upon generation of fallen soldiers fighting to protect the basic freedoms that too often get taken for granted

From the fields of World War I all the way to the desolate mountains of Afghanistan, we as Canadians need to show support for our men and women who have and continue to place themselves in harm’s way for all Canadians.

To date, there have been 152 Canadian casualties in Afghanistan, each leaving behind a family, a home, and a community. These 152 brave souls join the thousands of Canadian soldiers who have lost their lives throughout our history. We honour all of them today and we give thanks to all the veterans that are still with us today.

We will never forget you and everything that you have done in defense of Canada and our values as a nation.

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Tuesday, November 09, 2010 | Tim Morrison

The Shifting Tides of Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca

– MP Keith Martin announces retirement from politics

Longtime Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca MP Keith Martin

Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca Member of Parliament Dr. Keith Martin announced today that he is calling it quits. His 17 years in politics very likely includes holding the record as the MP elected the most times under multiple party banners.

He was first elected as part of the western wave Reform Party sweep in 1993, and then went on to be a Canadian Alliance leadership candidate, then sat as a Conservative, then Independent, and finally Liberal.

Without a doubt, Dr. Martin has been a long-time resilient fixture of the Esquimalt political scene. Most Esquimalt voters will tell you that Dr. Martin is one of those politicians that people will support regardless of his party banner. Essentially, that is how he managed to survive all those years.  The Liberals, in fact, had absolutely no history of success in our neck of the woods until Martin embraced the party as his latest incarnation.

So, what does Martin’s departure mean for Esquimalt politics? Well, there is a huge political vacuum that will now need to be filled. We are likely headed for a very divisive “battle royale” between the left and right.

Conservative candidate Troy DeSouza was looking forward to a rematch with Martin, cautiously optimistic of capturing a victory after only losing the last time around by a mere 68 votes. If you are a CFAX listener, you have likely heard his recent radio commercials that he very cleverly airs during traffic-congested rush hour, promising our Westshore neighbours a McKenzie Overpass as a miracle cure for the infamous Colwood Crawl. He made that issue a central theme in the last election, and appears to be doing  it again. Esquimalt residents, however, are more likely to want to hear his stance as to why his federal government is financing a very unpopular CRD sewage treament plant slated to be located in Esquimalt.

In provincial politics, Esquimalt is considered an NDP stronghold which could translate to NDP votes at the federal level.  Esquimalt Councillor Randall Garrison, who ran previously for the NDP in 2004 and 2006, is once again lining up to be the likely candidate.

Like DeSouza, Garrison is an experienced candidate in the riding who managed to come within striking distant of defeating Martin. Dr. Martin repeatedly won re-election with support from a coalition of right, left, and centrist voters. With Martin’s departure, the right and left Martinites will likely return to their traditional leanings of Conservative and NDP while centrist moderates could swing to either one of his potential replacements.

As we enter a possible spring election in 2011, hold on tight and get set for a rock’em, sock’em polarized political fight for the hearts and minds (and votes) of the people of Esquimalt.

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It Takes a Village to Raise a Community

Sunday, November 07, 2010 | Tim Morrison

It Takes a Village to Raise a Community

-Esquimalt Village project moving forward.

After years of discussion, debate, expensive consultant reviews and reports, Esquimalt Council has finally arrived at a formal and finalized vision for the much touted Esquimalt Village Plan. Our hometown has been undergoing a process of renewal, one towards a more revitalized, more attractive, and more vibrant community. The people of Esquimalt know that we already reside in a great setting, but we also know that we deserve better. We have wonderful parks and recreation, scenic coastlines, and a very convenient and close proximity to Victoria’s downtown core. What we also have, unfortunately, is an “image” problem.

People outside of Esquimalt see our home as an undesirable place to live. That is plain wrong. Image, however, is everything and it is why the Esquimalt Village Plan will play a vital role in the rebranding of Esquimalt. It is the vision for the long-term development of Esquimalt’s community hub. In other words, it’s our own little version of our own downtown. The goals include:

  • Create a lively and sustainable Esquimalt town centre, which incorporates a mix of uses and community recreation needs
  • Revitalize Esquimalt’s town core and enhance community economic development, while providing residents with a wider range of amenities and services
  • Capitalize on and enhance the value of public and private assets in the core
  • Enhance sustainability of municipal facilities and infrastructure

Esquimalt Council has finally and formally opted for a design plan referred to as Esquimalt Village Core: Phase 1 Development. You can view the plan by clicking here where you can read about design guideline directions on the envisioned form and character of village buildings, as well as a landscaping plan, and public realm guidelines for the plaza, open spaces and walkways. You can also view artist renditions of what Esquimalt Village will possibly look like once realized.

Basically, the plan includes a balanced mix of residential, community, and commercial space that hopes to transform the 1100 and 1200 block of Esquimalt Road,  including such municipal-owned land as the old Municipal Hall and Public Works Yard site and the town square fronting the library.

But, this is where it gets tricky. All this land is municipally-owned, not private development. According to the plan, it is hoped that  the “revitalization of the municipal lands will act as a demonstration of the type and quality of development desired within the village core and may serve as an incentive to other (area) landowners to pursue similar redevelopments in keeping with the overall goals…”

So, the question becomes: does it take a village to “raise” a community? For decades, we have hoped for some major positive revitalization of our community and this may be the vision we have been waiting for.

For more information, download the council-endorsed Esquimalt Village Plan by clicking here or go to:  http://www.esquimalt.ca/files/PDF/Business_and_Development/October6_EVP_Booklet-Public_NoBlnks_web.pdf

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Mayor’s Monthly Musings for October, 2010

Monday, October 11, 2010 | Tim Morrison

Back to the Future!

Esquimalt’s future centennial celebrations of our community’s rich heritage and history are fast approaching. In September, 2012, Esquimalt will reach 100 years old and Mayor Barb Desjardins is already promoting the milestone event at every opportunity. In this month’s mayoral report, Desjardins provides an update on the centennial planning progress and encourages residents to become involved.

Mayor’s Monthly Musing for October, 2010: Remember 2012 !!!!

-By Mayor Barb Desjardins

Esquimalt centennial is coming quickly. A core group of volunteers have been working hard since early 2009 and much has been accomplished. We have a website which can be accessed through the municipal website under culture and heritage, or google Esquimalt’s Centennial Celebration. Go to www.esquimaltcentennial2012.ca

We are looking for corporate sponsorships, ideas, celebrations, and volunteers!

We have a major centennial project underway in the development of a walkway within Memorial Park. Please check out the posters around town, go to the websites. Purchase your engraved paving stone in memory of someone or for your own part in Esquimalt history.

There are many special events being planned. These are over and above the many regular events of the year which we hope will be celebrated with a centennial flare. We are planning a special Esquimalt beer, tea and coffee for the year. A major Town Crier event will occur in Esquimalt in 2012 and we are looking for assistance in this event. There is planning for a dinner event in September, and a ‘pioneer tea’.

Has your association, community group; neighborhood association started planning their special centennial event?

What other activities do you want to see? What will you do for this significant milestone in our history?

Do not miss out! Be a part! Get excited! Remember 2012? It’s coming fast!

Barb Desjardins is the Mayor of Esquimalt. Email Mayor Desjardins at: mayor@esquimalt.ca

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Community Values

Thursday, October 07, 2010, 8:48:47 PM | Tim Morrison

Community Values

 – Local Esquimalt residents call for Socio-Economic Impact Study on CRD Sewage Treatment

Bruce Cuthbert and Rick Mandy care deeply about the future of Esquimalt. They want to determine the potential value of our community.

In response to community-wide opposition to the Capital Regional District’s plans to locate a sewage treatment plant at McLoughlin Point, the two local residents decided to add to the discussion with a particular focus. They have put together a study framework that deals specifically with the Socio-Economic and Community Development Impact Assessments (highest value and best use of land) as it relates to the CRD Core Area Liquid Waste Management Plan and to the Esquimalt Strategic Plan. They presented their proposed study to Esquimalt Council this week. The CRD has conducted many sewage treatment studies at great expense, but they have all focused on the technical aspects, construction, and operation costs while largely ignoring socio-economic impacts.

Rick Mandy moved into Esquimalt five years ago despite realtor warnings not to invest in Esquimalt. Cuthbert and Mandy first began working together collaborating on various projects for the provincial government. Their work involved taking an analytical approach to problem-solving.

“Esquimalt has been a great place to live, near enough to the downtown, and other amenities for easy access,” says Cuthbert, a 30-year resident of Esquimalt. “I am looking for a safe, healthy, vibrant, economically stable place to live in.  I think Esquimalt needs help now from within our community to rejuvenate. This is our home.”

Pointing out that the CRD project would effectively wipe out prime, high-demand waterfront property in a region with very little remaining waterfront development opportunities, Cuthbert says: “We also need to look at the highest and best land use as part of a Socio-Economic assessment of the Sewage Treatment plan options to ensure that the implemented option meets the needs of the future of the whole CRD.  Let’s make this an investment that we will all be proud of being part of, not just (being) NIMBYs.  There is no new waterfront.”

Hence, Cuthbert and Mandy are calling on the CRD to conduct a full socio-economic impact study of the McLoughlin Point controversy. Without this step being taken, the two men predict that both Esquimalt and the CRD will lose out on major socio-economic potential for the site as part of our ongoing regional revitalization.

The study would examine such questions as:

  • What is the “highest and best use” of the land? See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highest_and_best_use
  •  What is the social impact (positive and negative) on the residents and businesses in the community? (health, wellness, well-being of community, community stability, safety, crime, violence, land plan )
  • What are the financial impacts on the community? (future tax base, property values, business development opportunities, community development, tourism))
  •  What are the impacts on surrounding communities?

Despite the site’s history as contaminated industrial land used by Esso, Mandy pointed out that was also true of False Creek in Vancouver prior to Expo86, but which is now one the most valued real estate areas in the country.

Esquimalt Council agreed unanimously with the approach of Cuthbert and Mandy.

“I am pleased with the response of the Council,” says Cuthbert. “They are having staff check things out and they provided us with support in principle.  From the comments of the Council and Mayor, I think we have a good level of support. It would be great if more people step up and help out as well. Perhaps a Town Hall type workshop/discussions with some brainstorming related to Esquimalt Revitalization 2020 might be helpful.”

For more information and to become involved in this grassroots, community-driven important project, contact Bruce Cuthbert at tc1@shaw.ca and Rick Mandy at rmandy@thebaintreegroup.com

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Not Smiling for the Camera

Monday, September 20, 2010| Tim Morrison

Not Smiling for the Camera

-Esquimalt United in Outrage Against CRD Sewage Plan

Concerned citizens gather at McLoughlin Point for photo-op protest against the the CRD’s Sewage Treatment Plan. September 19, 2010. Photo by John McKay.

An otherwise rainy Sunday afternoon opened up a spot of sunshine this past weekend as dozens upon dozens of local Esquimalt residents among other concerned citizens of the Capital Regional District assembled to express their united opposition to the CRD’s plans to build the region’s new sewage treatment plant at McLoughlin Point.

Along with Esquimalt Council members and other community leaders, the multi-generational group of protestors gathered on-site at McLoughlin Point for a media group photo-op and to provide faces to the widespread opposition across Esquimalt as well as the entire region.

The grassroots event was organized by local resident, Carole Witter, who stated, “The intention of the event is to send out a powerful message of solidarity, and to show the broad range of opposition to the current CRD sewage treatment plan.”

“The CRD’s current plan is to squeeze a substandard facility onto a site that is too small, and then get us to pay for it,” added Witter.  “Every property owner in the capital region will be investing in this plan through a tax increase ranging from $300 to $500.  One way to offset these costs and show environmental stewardship would be to recover resources (heat, natural gas, water, phosphate, etc) from the sewage as it is treated.  The CRD has chosen a plan that will in no way maximize the recovery of resources from treated sewage. The CRD knows that liquid and solid waste should be processed on the same site, yet they have chosen a site which is too small to host both facilities and instead will pump the liquid waste to Hartland Landfill at great cost.  In addition, the water reuse portion of this plan was dropped just to make this facility fit this site.  Other jurisdictions reuse this water, are able to generate income and lessen the burden on precious water resources.”

“This initiative organized by residents of the region indicates the growing concern about putting a sewage plant at McLoughlin,” said Mayor Barb Desjardins. “A picture definitely tells a thousand stories and, from these photos, it is clear that CRD Liquid Waste Management Plan: Amendment 8 is definitely the wrong plan!”

The Township of Esquimalt recently launched a new website dedicated to raising public awareness of the many flaws involved in the CRD’s shortsighted sewage treatment plan. The site can be accessed at www.thewrongplan.ca

“Members of the public should take the time to go to the site, politicians of the region should take the time to go to this site,” added Desjardins. “It will enhance their understanding of what the potential impact this site may be on our tourist based economy.”

Esquimalt remains strongly opposed to the CRD’s sewage plan being forced upon our community without any prior consultation.

A summary of the Township of Esquimalt’s concerns with the McLoughlin Point Site include:

  • The first glimpse of BC’s capital city that some 400,000 visitors a year would see from cruise ships and approaching float planes would be a wastewater treatment facility.
  • Consultants have indicated that odours, even with closed containment technology, will be present.
  • McLoughlin Point is across and downwind from the highest residential density areas of Victoria, James Bay and Songhees.
  • Limited site capacity.
  • No risk management plan, even though the site is within a provincial tsunami zone.
  • The site, formerly a fuel storage area, will have to be rehabilitated. What are the costs?
  • No environmental resource recovery.
  • The distance between liquid and solid waste treatment sites is 18 kms. Pumping sludge this distance represents an enormous energy expenditure.

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Friday, August 20, 2010 | Tim Morrison

Staying Alive

How much does it cost to live in Esquimalt?

What would you say is the absolute minimum “living wage” required to adequately survive financially (i.e. live) in Esquimalt and to maintain a modest quality of life for you and your family? Well, the BC Community Social Planning Council, based on a series of living cost essentials, calculates the required living wage as $17.31 per hour for an average adult with a spouse (both spouses employed) and two children.

Councillor Garrison: “We need a Living Wage Policy.”

Following a presentation to Esquimalt Council this week from Christina Peacock of the BC Community Social Planning Council asking Esquimalt to adopt a “living wage” policy, Councillor Randall Garrison moved the following Notice of Motion:

WHEREAS residents of Esquimalt face a high cost of living for basics such as food, clothing, shelter, education, and childcare and those costs often drive young families out of our community;

WHEREAS money spent on paying a living wage, the hourly wage required to cover the necessities  for a family, largely re-circulates directly in the community where it is earned providing stimulus to local businesses ;

WHEREAS BC has the highest child poverty rate in Canada with more than half those children living in families where one parent works full-time and raising incomes of poor families is the most direct way to reduce child poverty;

WHEREAS competition for contracts to provide services to the Township should always be based on efficiency and quality of service provided and never simply about who can pay the lowest wages; and

WHERAS direct costs to the Township of implementing a living wage policy should be relatively small and all employers paying a living wage benefit through reduced absenteeism, better employee retention, higher morale and higher productivity levels;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Township of Esquimalt develop a Living Wage Policy;

AND THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that staff be directed to bring back a report to Council on the policy outlining the expected benefits and costs of a living wage policy and a draft bylaw with options for implementing a Living Wage Policy for all full and part-time employees of the Township and all contractors doing business with the Township.

Garrison stated that this was directed at helping people of all working demographics: “Many people who grow up in our community cannot afford to stay here,” stated Garrison. “We are talking about basic necessities to live.”

Mayor Barb Desjardins and Councillor Don Linge, however, expressed some concern with how this policy would discriminate against many local small businesses that provide services to the municipality. “Fair wages is absolutely what we all strive to do,” said Mayor Desjardins, “But, if we are supporting this, we need to be reminded that we are spending other people’s money.”

In the end, Council unanimously endorsed the notice of motion in principle and sent it on to staff to prepare a draft policy that will be further debated and voted on by Council at a later date.

Essentially, this would mean Council taking a stance on social policy that could greatly improve the finances of working families or greatly hurt the finances of local small business employers…..depending on how you look at it. Taxpayer finances would also be impacted in that our taxes are the main revenue source for paying the municipality’s workers. Increasing municipal wages to a higher threshold will cost taxpayers more.  Others would argue, however, that taxpayers could potentially benefit through savings in social spending. As people living in poverty gain increased incomes, then the costs of subsidized social assistance funding may correspondingly decline.

In any event, it would mean a big change for both employees and employers including tax payer-funded employers. Council will likely want to tread carefully into this social policy territory that has some real financial policy implications. The City of New Westminster is the only other British Columbian municipality to adopt such a policy.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010 | Tim Morrison

Watership Down

– Harbour ferry suddenly cancelled for Esquimalt

Victoria’s Harbour Ferry

Do you have guests visiting this summer and planned to take them for a harbour ferry ride out of Esquimalt? Well, you had better make other plans.

Mayor Barb Desjardins delivered some very distressing news for the community of Esquimalt at last night’s Council meeting. Due to an irresolvable business negotiations dispute between the Victoria Harbour Ferry operators and Westbay Marina management, water taxi services linking Esquimalt with the rest of Victoria Harbour have ceased and desisted effectively immediately.

The service has been permanently cancelled and will deliver a devastating blow to Esquimalt’s tourism development.

“This ferry service was considered a major part of our tourism strategy that will no longer exist,” declared Mayor Desjardins.

Desjardins indicated that the municipality as well as area businesses such as West Bay restaurants and B&Bs tried desperately to intervene to help resolve the dispute but were unsuccessful in bringing the two parties to a successful agreement.

The Victoria Harbour Ferry Company began in 1990 with just two ferry boats and steadily grew in demand to a fleet of 14 small passenger ferries that sail the waters around Victoria’s Inner Harbour and the neighbouring Selkirk and Gorge Waterways.

Prior to shutting down, the ferry service ran three times per hour during all daylight hours into Esquimalt. The service for other parts of Victoria Harbour will continue uninterrupted but will now pass by Esquimalt without stopping.

Esquimalt residents that use the service for commuting to downtown and have purchased pre-paid passes will be provided with full refunds.

Mayor Desjardins pledged to work towards a solution and has asked municipal staff to prepare a report on possible actions that could help reinstate the service. As the predicament stems from a private sector dispute, however, there is likely very little the municipality can do to resolve the matter and that means a lot of added stress for our local businesses that cater to the tourism market.

Perhaps, as Esquimalt residents, we can all do our part in supporting restaurants, shops, and B&Bs in the Westbay area that will now need our business more than ever.

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These Are the People in Your Neighbourhood: Chef Jamie Martineau

Monday, August 16, 2010 | Tim Morrison

EsquimaltReview.com continues a  featured series entitled “These are the People in Your Neighbourhood“. In this edition, the Esquimalt Review profiles Esquimalt’s favourite Chef and expert on all things cuisine. If you would like to contribute a community profile about an individual, group, organization, or business in Esquimalt, please send your ideas to editor@esquimaltreview.com

What’s Cooking in Esquimalt?

Chef Jamie Martineau

Meet Jamie Martineau, the Executive Chef and Food Service Manager at Esquimalt’s Gorge Vale Golf Club. Now living in West Saanich, Chef Jamie previously resided in Esquimalt about 12 years ago. He greatly enjoys working in Esquimalt and sees it as “a tight nit community with a military background…I see Esquimalt as a community that is undergoing a transformation while honoring its heritage.”

With his ancestral French background, Martineau has a natural flare for fine cuisine. He trained locally at Comosun College and went on to achieve Certified Chef De Cuisine status (Canadian equivalent of a Master Chef). He was one of the youngest Canadians to receive that honour. Originally hailing from Northern B.C., Martineau has lived and worked in various locales but feels there is nothing better than the Vancouver Island lifestyle.

So, how did Chef Jamie end up here in Esquimalt’s backyard? “I’ve worked at the Gorge Vale Golf Club for the past year and eight months. Working as a Sous Chef at prestigious golf courses in Victoria, I wanted to become an Executive Chef of a food service operation where I could use my knowledge and skills to train and lead my own kitchen brigade.”

Chef Jamie displays his buffet of delicacies.

And how is business these days at the golf club restaurant?

“Busy, business depends on the weather which has been excellent the past few months; the course has a reputation as being one of the premier courses on Vancouver Island,” says Chef Jamie. “Currently, I’m working on providing the best quality of food and service that our clients deserve. We are a food & beverage operation, specializing in large and small scale banquets and providing a full service restaurant as well as a snack bar for golfers.”

“Future plans for our restaurant are to get busier, hoping to attract the general public to enjoy our culinary creations,” adds Martineau.  “We have certain signature items on our menu that have become favorites; generally we provide Canadian cuisine at a fair price. We offer a special sheet every Friday and Saturday night.”  Mmmm…sounds delicious. Stop by, enjoy a bite and be sure to say hello to Chef Jamie and ask him about what he’s got cooking.

Some of Chef Jamie’s signature dishes:

For more information, check out the Gorge Vale Golf Course website at: http://www.gorgevalegolf.com or email Chef Jamie at chef@gorgevalegolf.com

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Mayor’s Monthly Musing: Summer, 2010

August-15-2010 | Tim Morrison

One of the biggest community concerns in Esquimalt is policing. Currently serviced by the Victoria Police Department (VicPD), many Esquimalt residents feel that our community’s level of policing and public safety leaves a lot to be desired. Could that be changing? In her monthly Esquimalt Review report, Mayor Barb Desjardins says the outlook is positive for Esquimalt policing.

Mayor’s Monthly Musing: Summer, 2010

Esquimalt is Moving Forward in Determining How We are Policed

By Mayor Barb Desjardins

This board is made up of three provincial appointees, one council appointee, and myself as chair. It is not new for Esquimalt to have a police board. We had one before the amalgamation of our police with VicPD in 2002.

What is significant is that this is the first step to restoring for Esquimalt what every other municipality in British Columbia has, the right to determine how it will provide policing.

Section 54(1) “The council may provide police services in the municipality by a combination of methods authorized pursuant to the Police Act and the board of police commissioners of a municipality has jurisdiction over the provision of the police services, notwithstanding that they are provided by a combination of methods. (2) A municipality may contract with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Minister of Justice or another municipality to provide police services. 1998, c. 18, s. 54.

This right was removed when amalgamation took place although I do not feel it was necessarily the intention. Amalgamation with a very different community, 4 times larger than Esquimalt, with very different needs of the police, created issues for Esquimalt that were never resolved.

This was the reason that Esquimalt pushed for an audit of its police service delivery, funding model, and governance model within the amalgamated Victoria force . The audit report that was released earlier this spring concluded there may be better ways for Esquimalt to be policed, and that the funding formula with Victoria for police services should be reviewed.

Governance change is the first step in evaluation and potentially changing the other two issues. Over the next period of time the Esquimalt Police Advisory Board will review service needs, options of service provision and costs, and complete a report for the Solicitor General. From this report our policing may change significantly in some or all aspects.

I am looking forward to the hard work and next steps in this process and feel we will be well served by the people chosen to serve Esquimalt in this important role.

Barb Desjardins is the Mayor of Esquimalt and Chair of the newly-formed Esquimalt Police Board. The names of all the members of Esquimalt Police Board were unveiled at the August 16th Council Meeting and include local residents: Warren Carrie, John (Jack) Fleming, Donna Humphries as the provincial appointees and Graham Lang as the Esquimalt Council appointee.

Email Mayor Desjardins at: mayor@esquimalt.ca

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010 | Tim Morrison

Whatever It Takes!

– Esquimalt residents ready to fight CRD’s sewage treatment plan

It was a hot summer evening last week at Esquimalt Municipal Hall…hot in temperatures and hot in tempers. It was standing room only as more than a hundred local concerned residents packed into Council Chambers to express their outrage, frustrations, and constructive input in response to the Capital Regional District’s hasty decision to locate the CRD’s new centralized sewage treatment plant at McLouglin Point in Esquimalt.

Of note, there was absolutely no CRD representation in attendance to hear the concerns of the community during this traditional Town Hall-style Meeting….not even one CRD official had the decency or, more likely, the courage to face the people most impacted by a the CRD’s irresponsible planning. One speaker after another lined up to point out the many foibles of the project, often referred to as a “billion dollar boondoggle”.

The crowd included experts, engineers, and environmentalists, all of whom pointed out that the project is not only too costly at $300 per year per household, but that it also hurts more than helps the environment.

The people of Esquimalt stressed that this is not about NIMBYism (Not In My Backyard syndrome), but rather more about common sense and doing what is in the best interests of the environment and the taxpayers. All of the public input pleaded with Council to do “whatever it takes” to halt the project from becoming reality, a message heard loud and clear by Council.

“This is not just an Esquimalt problem,” declared Mayor Barb Desjardins. “This is a regional disaster that is occurring. This is not the right plan.”

Councillor Don Linge, a lawyer by profession, described the situation as “a classic class-action case in which we are all impacted” in referring to the need for all CRD residents to join forces in stopping the project through whatever legal means available.

Councillor Randall Garrison vowed that he was willing to play nice with the CRD and approach the matter rationally to negotiate a solution in the best interests of Esquimalt, but if the CRD continue to ignore our community, then he is prepared to have Council obstruct the project through whatever means possible including bylaws that would ban trucking in/out of the site.

As the evening wore on and as both the public and Council expressed themselves so passionately, it became abundantly clear that the CRD have picked a fight with the wrong community and one that will not standby and allow this project to be bulldozed into our home.

“We are Esquimalt, we are proud, and we have a voice,” declared Councillor Meagan Brame.

Esquimalt’s next move will likely involve legal action against the CRD in a case of taxpayer suing taxpayer…a mess all of the CRD’s making and a mess much more revolting that anything in our sewage system.

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Shining a Light on Esquimalt

Monday, July 19, 2010 | Eleanor Calder

Shining a Light on Esquimalt

-Planning for 10th Esquimalt Lantern Festival gets underway

By Esquimalt Lantern Festival Society Director Eleanor Calder

In January 2009, I responded to a request to be a volunteer to assist in “re-lighting” the Lantern Festival in Esquimalt. Around the same time, I attended a community workshop in Victoria that focused on how to get residents more interested, engaged, and involved with their communities. The answer was simple: have some fun together! Hence, the Lantern Festival provides the venue for the community to have fun and to be the event that includes participating in a Lantern parade along West Bay Walkway and enjoying some lively entertainment at Captain Jacobson Park.

It is all free, family-friendly and FUN. The volunteers that I have met continue to inspire me with their talents at organizing, networking, and just doing what it takes to deliver a successful event.

The 10th Esquimalt Lantern Festival is returning September 25 from 6pm-10pm.  We are seeking volunteers. There are lots of great ways you could help out from lantern building to setting up on event day. There will also be some community workshops held in August and September to provide training. For more information please e-mail us at esquimaltlanternfestival@gmail.com.

For historical perspective on this festival, I interviewed one the Lantern Festival’s founding members, Julie Flatt. The idea of the Esquimalt festival started in 1996 when four core municipalities (Victoria, Saanich, Oak Bay & Esquimalt) put together a group to form the inaugural “Community Arts Awareness Week” (CAAW).  In 1997, the first lantern festival was held as Esquimalt’s entry in the first week of May of that year. The West Bay Residents Association then teamed up with an Esquimalt Parks & Recreation staff member who coordinated Esquimalt’s CAAW involvement. From 1998 to 2004, the Esquimalt Lantern Festival moved to Swiftsure Weekend (3rd week of May) to be part of the Victora Harbour Festival.

The idea of a Lantern Festival for Esquimalt was first brought forward by a friend of Julie Flatt who had participated previously in a lantern festival at Trout Lake in Vancouver.  Hence, Julie along with Colin Maclock, two members of the West Bay Residents Association, began the planning for our first Lantern Festival.  They invited Paula Jardine, who organized the Vancouver festival, to Victoria to provide guidance. The festival became jointly hosted by the West Bay Residents Association and the Township of Esquimalt and some years it was co-hosted by the Saxe Point Residents Association.

Several citizens and local businesses came forward to help promote the festival.  MLA Maureen Karaganis, who was an Esquimalt Councillor at the time, along with municipal staff member Barb Synder and Lantern Society board members Betty Tate, Alison Acker, Martin Henry and Tim Finlay were all integral components of the event’s annual success.  They gathered up volunteers to build the balloon and star-shaped lanterns at Municipal Hall. Local musicians and the Esquimalt High School Jazz Band were recruited to provide the lively entertainment that has become synonymous with the event.  The route of the lantern procession meandered along the West Bay Walkway to Captain Jacobson Park with the first three years starting at Spinnakers. The Festival has always been a free, fun, family celebration of lights, music, and dancing with a tried and tested concept in which the participants were always what made the event such a special time for all of Esquimalt to enjoy.

Esquimalt Lantern Festival Society Director Eleanor Calder is a resident of Esquimalt’s Rock Heights neighbourhood and serves as an executive board member of the Esquimalt Residents Association. Calder will be providing regular updates on the progress of this year’s Lantern Festival to Esquimalt Review readers. Email Eleanor at eleanorcalder@shaw.ca    Calder urges interested community volunteers to come forward and she promises they won’t regret having been part of one of Esquimalt’s most successful annual events.

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Note to CRD: Dumping Your Sewage on Us May Lead to Us Dumping You

Thursday, July 08, 2010 | Tim Morrison

Note to CRD: Dumping Your Sewage on Us May Lead to Us Dumping You

-Time for Esquimalt to consider a new regional governance model

Excellent guest editorial column in yesterday’s Victoria Times Colonist by Mayor Barb Desjardins that reveals the true story of the Capital Regional District’s severely short-sighted sewage treatment plant project being forced on the people of Esquimalt. If you haven’t already read it, then be sure to check it out at: http://www.timescolonist.com/Flawed+sewage+plan+pushed+done+deal/3245113/story.html

Not only is this project poorly planned and fraught with peril, but it is also being done without any meaningful consultation with the community of Esquimalt. In essence, the CRD has unequivocally expressed utter disregard and disrespect for the people of Esquimalt. Why would we possibly want to remain a member of a club that treats us so poorly?

The CRD governance system is severely flawed in its decision-making process in which Esquimalt is all but reduced to begging and pleading for fair treatment.

Esquimalt Residents Association founding president Beth Burton-Krahn put it best when she declared: “Due to the undemocratic and unbalanced decision making process at the table of the CRD’s Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee, the representative for Esquimalt, Mayor Desjardins, with only one vote, but the highest stake in the entire sewage venture, is effectively persona non-grata in the minds of the CRD.  This has been the underlying problem with this project all along reaching back many, many years.”

It is time to cancel our membership in the CRD. It’s time to consider forming a better, more equitable regional governance system for Esquimalt and our neighbouring suburban municipalities by seceding from the CRD and working with the Western Communities of View Royal, Colwood, Langford, Metchosin, Highlands, and Sooke to form a new West Shore Regional District.

As a regional district, we would all be relatively small but growing communities with much in common and much more suited to work cooperatively with each other on efficient, effective and equitable regional planning.  We could amalgamate many of our regional services that are in need of great attention such as policing. We would have a more common sense approach and a more respectful consideration of consulting each other’s communities when it comes to major decision-making.

The CRD is taking us for granted. Esquimalt should not take that any more. Perhaps, I am completely wrong and perhaps a new West Shore Regional District is more fantasy than probability. But, we certainly could not do any worse than the current status quo of being a member of a regional district that decides to dump the entire region’s sewage treatment on our municipality, and waits to “consult” us after the decision has already been made.

CRD, do what you want with us, but heed these words: You are not our only option for regional governance. If pushed, we may just opt for a better deal.

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Help Flush the CRD Sewage Treatment Plan Down the Toilet

July 1, 2010 | Tim Morrison

Help Flush the CRD Sewage Treatment Plan Down the Toilet

– Esquimalt residents invited to express opposition to Sewage Treatment Plant plan

The grassroots community-based Sewage Treatment Action Group (STAG) urges all Esquimalt residents to attend this very important public meeting that dramatically affects the future of our community:CRD Public Engagement on Sewage Treatment in Esquimalt
July 6 and July 8, 2010

3 pm to 8 pm, (Drop-in at your convenience)

Council Chambers, Esquimalt Municipal Hall, 1229 Esquimalt Road

Important Background Information

The centralized sewage treatment facility currently planned to be built in Esquimalt at McLoughlin point, will service the entire Capitol Region.  Sludge will then be transported (trucked?) to another facility.  The plan will add an additional $250-$500 every year to your tax bill, forever!  It is not the best possible plan for the Capital Region, nor does it provide sufficient flexibility for the future.

Get involved now to minimize the financial impacts to every resident in Esquimalt and the Capital Region.  Raise your voice to influence the CRD to implement readily available technology for resource recovery, and insist that negative environmental impact is kept to a minimum.

Please attend the open house and let the CRD know what you think.

Please Consider Communicating the Following Points to the CRD:

  • It’s unacceptable and disrespectful to be consulting with residents after the CRD has made its decision.
  • Esquimalt was only given 2 information sessions, whereas Saanich East and Oak Bay communities received 11 opportunities of direct consultation to voice their concerns with a Saanich East plant.
  • The CRD has not sought ANY input from the public regarding this new plan for a single centralized treatment facility.
  • Esquimalt residents do not consider the open houses on July 6 and July 8 to constitute adequate consultation.
  • The community and experts agree, McLoughlin Point is too small and inflexible for a single centralized liquid plant.
  • Residents want resource recovery that will allow greater long-term cost savings and development of a revenue resource, but the current plan does not support this.
  • There is no guarantee that sludge will not be trucked through our community.
  • There is no fixed site and plan for biosolids processing so how can Esquimalt residents assess the impacts to our community and engage in mitigation and amenity discussions?
  • This is the wrong plan for the region.

This information was prepared by the Sewage Treatment Action Group (STAG).

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Mayor’s Monthly Musings for June, 2010

June-30, 2010 | Tim Morrison

Everyone in Esquimalt agrees that the Capital Regional District’s Sewage Plan is wrong on many accounts. Our community leaders are speaking out and our Mayor is leading the charge to oppose the plan. In this month’s mayoral report, Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins outlines the reasons why all Esquimalt residents should join her in putting a stop to the CRD’s sewage plan.

Mayor’s Monthly Musings for June, 2010

-By Mayor Barb Desjardins

The Minister of Environment, in December of 2007, gave some precise directives for the CRD to follow in this process:

1)   Minimize total project costs to the taxpayer by maximizing economic and financial benefits including beneficial reuse of resources and generation of offsetting revenue

2)   Aggressively pursue opportunities to minimize and reduce greenhouse gas emissions

3)   Optimize ‘smart growth’ results, e.g. district services, density, Dockside Green’ like innovation

The CRD has not met these directives with the configuration it approved on June 23, 2010. There are basic reasons these could not be met in my view.

The CRD did not look at this project from the view of directive number 1, which would have had the CRD looking for sites based on where best resource recovery and revenues could be achieved. The CRD has not used GHG reduction, a key directive for site selection and process, but as a factor that must be added in when options are presented. The CRD has not addressed directive number 3 in any way and this is a key reason for us being where we are today. The site selection premise started with where the pipes in the ground are, and absolutely this should have been one point for consideration, but not the only one.

This premise has lead the CRD to a large centralized liquid waste management plant with no beneficial reuse or resource recovery component. The biosolid management site at Hartland Landfill may or may not integrate solid waste and organic waste streams.

The CRD Board’s strategic direction is toward zero waste and closure of Hartland in the future. These decisions and those of the Core Liquid Waste Committee of the CRD are directly opposed.

The key factor for resource recovery is the ability to combine the waste stream management processes, which will optimize revenue and resource recovery. There is no combination occurring when the two sites chosen are 18 km apart! The pumping of sludge this distance will require huge amounts of energy for its entire lifecycle.

Combine these shortfalls with the problems associated with the McLoughlin site itself, a constrained, contaminated site, a focal point of the entrance to our City of Victoria, and the CRD has missed the point entirely!

It is important for the region’s public to understand these shortfalls.

There is also a significant problem with the community engagement process that has been followed. Appropriate and timely community consultation is a process that has been mandated by the Province.

Beyond general open houses, Esquimalt and Hartland have not been engaged in dialogue and consultation with respect to these sites within their communities.

I encourage all residents of the region to get involved now. We are all going to be challenged with significant tax increases for the future without the significant additional benefits that a properly planned system should have.

Please do all that you can to understand this situation and make your thoughts known to the CRD.

Barb Desjardins is the Mayor of Esquimalt and Esquimalt’s representative on the Capital Regional District Board of Directors. Email Mayor Desjardins at: mayor@esquimalt.ca

Public feedback can also be sent directly to the Capital Regional District at:  http://www.wastewatermadeclear.ca/publicinput/feedback.htm

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CRD Decision-Making: A Child Running with Scissors

Thursday, June 24, 2010 | Tim Morrison

CRD Decision-Making: A Child Running with Scissors

– CRD Sewage Plan Alarms Esquimalt

Well, it’s official. Esquimalt is now in the process of being screwed by the Capital Regional District. Read the details by clicking here. The CRD Directors are pushing through with a very short-sighted sewage plan that can best be described as children running around the house with scissors in their hands. It is irresponsible, silly, and downright stupid. Somebody will get hurt. First, it will be Esquimalt that will have to suffer the loss of a big chunk of its industrialized tax base at McLoughlin Point to be handed over for the sewage treatment site, then see its streets torn up for the construction of required piping, and later have to tolerate an eternity of truck traffic hauling in and out of the site.  Eventually, however, all CRD taxpayers will suffer immensely when they see their property taxes increased by hundreds of dollars per year to finance an inept project that does very little to solve our sewage problems.

A grassroots community group, the Sewage Treatment Action Group (STAG), takes the Ministry of Environment’s directive to clean up CRD sewage very seriously and has attempted to work with the CRD to create a sensible plan to achieve that goal. But, from behind closed doors, the CRD has disregarded or, even worse, avoided all public input by proceeding with a plan that nobody was informed of until this past week…the same week that the plan has been adopted and finalized by the CRD.

STAG President Kim Bellefontaine is organizing residents in both Esquimalt and across the CRD to fight back and put pressure on CRD directors to slow down, put the scissors safely away, and play nice with some meaningful community consultation and a careful rethinking of their rather rushed plan.

Listen to STAG President Kim Bellefontaine’s CBC Radio interview by clicking here.

Every Esquimalt resident should read the following written letter from STAG President Kim Bellefontaine to the CRD that outlines the many pitfalls of the CRD Sewage Treatment Plan:

Dear Mr. Young and CRD Board Members:

On Wednesday June 23, 2010, the CRD board will be voting on the Draft Amendment No. 8 of the Core Area Liquid Waste Management Plan.  We are writing this letter to make you all aware of significant public concerns with this proposed amendment and the overall direction of sewage treatment planning   We strongly believe this is the wrong plan for the Capital Region and we ask that you not approve this amendment and seriously consider this input to find better solutions.  Our concerns are as follows:

Whole-Scale System Changes – The new configuration consists of a centralized liquid plant at McLoughlin Point with biosolids processing at Hartland Landfill.  This represents a very significant departure from the previous plan and runs completely contrary to several of the key cornerstones of the CRD’s Wastewater Management Program, namely a distributed treatment system that supports optimal resource recovery.  As well, this centralized system has not been vetted by peer experts or the public.

Process – Details on how the amended proposal meets the overall objectives for sewage planning and the provincial regulatory directives are unclear.  Equally unclear is the process for how recent decisions were made by the CALWMC/CRD since much of the information was kept in-camera without the opportunity for public knowledge and input.  This is the biggest and most expensive project the CRD has ever undertaken and due process has not been followed.

Consultation – All of the public engagement and consultation to date has been based on a distributed sewage system.  There has been absolutely no consultation with the public on a centralized treatment system or explanation as to how this is a better solution compared to previous plans and other options brought forward by the public.  The public deserves an opportunity for meaningful engagement and to know the details of how and why such significant changes are considered supportable.  In addition there has been no meaningful consultation with Esquimalt (the host community) over the proposed use of McLoughlin Point.  The community has never been involved with the Triple Bottom Line assessment, or has had the opportunity for input into the Environmental Impact Study.  Decisions have been made without meaningful consultation.

McLoughlin Point – Centralized liquid processing is the wrong use for McLoughlin Point.  Experts have noted that the site is too small and difficult, and one Peer Review expert commented on the similarities between McLoughlin Point and the recent and colossal failure of the waste water treatment plant in Halifax, Nova Scotia, siting inflexibility and size constraints.  Esquimalt citizens strongly supported the use of McLoughlin Point for a distributed wastewater treatment plant within a resource recovery model.  The current plan is not consistent with the strong and very proactive public input around the use of McLoughlin Point.

Hartland Landfill – Plans for biosolids processing at Hartland Landfill are only at a very conceptual level.  Engineering studies have not been conducted at Hartland or along the conveyance route that demonstrate this is a technically and economically feasible solution for biosolids management.  In fact on several occasions, CRD engineers have told the public that piping and pumping of biosolids to Hartland would be prohibitively expensive.  We believe it is not responsible to approve a treatment plan that is missing a viable site and plan for biosolids management.

Business Case – The business case for the new configuration does not include detailed costs and cost comparisons between previous options and the centralized system.  The real costs of piping and pumping of all biosolids to the Hartland Landfill for processing are likely very high, meaning the overall costs of this sytem could be significantly underestimated.  Significant opportunities to minimize costs to tax payers still exist and need to be brought to fruition.

Resource Recovery – The proposed treatment system in Amendment 8 does not support optimum resource recovery.  Resource recovery at the liquid plant is now very limited.  The CALWMC should be asked to provide details for resource recovery at the Hartland Landfill.  If a centralized approach is going to be pursued in the capital region, it would make far more sense to do this in an alternate location that supports both solid and liquid processing together to enable the best possible resource recovery with an energy centre.  This would result in significant revenues/cost savings that are far beyond those currently achieved with Amendment 8.  Locating both solid and liquid waste components at Hartland has not been considered.

GHG reduction – It appears that the proposed centralized system will not achieve significant reductions to GHG’s.  We believe that the proposed purchase of carbon credits by the CRD to achieve a negative GHG balancesheet seriously misses the intent of the directive to reduce GHG’s.

Regional Sustainability – The CRD is moving forward with development of a Regional Sustainability Strategy, yet the current sewage planning does not dovetail with these goals.  We believe that the CRD cannot achieve significant regional sustainability without the full-system integration of liquid, solid, organic waste with resource recovery and water management planning.  This appears to be a significant opportunity that is being missed.

We recognize the pressure on the CRD Board to approve this plan for the purpose of securing federal and provincial funding.  However, approving and implementing the wrong plan is simply not an acceptable option.  The lack of due process, transparency and community consultation, the problems with McLoughlin Point, the lack of a concrete site and plans for biosolids management, the absence of a convincing business case, and the inconsistency of the plan with resource recovery, GHG reduction and broader regional sustainability goals, clearly demonstrate this is the wrong plan for the Capital Region.  It is currently a system concocted out of constraints and perceived necessity and not founded in proper planning.

We ask that the CRD Board not approve Amendment 8 for the reasons noted and that a much-improved plan be pursued, one that is supported by proper planning and an accountable public consultation process.  Considering the significant tax dollars at stake every year for every single household in the Capital Region, we believe the public deserves no less.

Thank-you for your consideration.  We will be sharing these concerns with the BC Minister of Environment and other stakeholders in the Capital Region.

Sincerely,

Kim Bellefontaine, Sewage Treatment Action Group (STAG)

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010 | Tim Morrison

From Only Child to Twin Sister

– Esquimalt pursues a partner

Esquimalt is quite literally a very unique place. While there are many places named Victoria on the world map, there is only one Esquimalt. Since first incorporating as a town in 1912, we have pretty much been one of a kind, but now there are plans afoot to seek out our very own twin sister in a far away land. The man playing matchmaker is local resident Terry Milne, a former Canadian Defence Attaché in Tokyo. The target of our sisterly affection is Onagawa, a Japanese seaside town similar in size and stature to Esquimalt. This week, Esquimalt Council officially voted to pursue a sister city twinning relationship with Onagawa.  Terry Milne shares his report with Esquimalt Review readers that convinced Council to pursue his proposal.

Esquimalt’s Twinning with Onagawa  – By Terry Milne

Tokyo is on the main Island of Honshu, and 200 km’s NE of Tokyo is the major provincial capital city of Sendai…., smaller than Tokyo but still a few times larger than Vancouver, and 40 km’s to the east of Sendai on the ocean is the small town and seaport of Onagawa.

The history of the Onagawa area goes back to the 16th century, a time of civil war in Japan.  At that time, the great Warlord of Sendai made a habit before battles of sending his court ladies away to the peace and safety of a river down by the coast which as a result became known as “Woman or Ladies River” which translates as” Onagawa” in Japanese.

For most of the past, it has been a quiet area, a small farming and fishing community with a port for coastal and fishing vessels, and in recent years, significant aquaculture.

However, as with most of Japan, Onagawa was caught up in WW II, with ships of the Japanese Navy based in the bay.  The link between Onagawa and Canada began in the final days of the War, when Canadian pilots operating off the British aircraft carrier HMS Formidable were ordered to attack Japanese navy ships and nearby airfields. Leading the attack was a young Canadian pilot from Nelson B.C., Lt. Hampton Gray, or Hammy Gray as he was known to his squadron mates. Already awarded the DSC in Europe for pressing home air attacks on the German battleship Tirpitz, he fearlessly flew into the narrow, well-defended confines of Onagawa Bay, sank the Japanese destroyer Amakusa before being shot down and crashing into the Bay. He was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously making him the most highly decorated Canadian Naval Officer in WW II. A biography of Hammy Gray entitled “A Formidable Hero” was  subsequentlywritten by local author Stuart Soward, himself a former carrier pilot.

Forty years later in 1985, the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa sent a letter to the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo asking if any steps could be taken to recover the aircraft from the Bay. It became my job to check on this and with some 149 local Onagawa people killed in the allied air attacks, you can imagine I approached the task with some trepidation. However, my visit and mission were both received with kindness and consideration by the Onagawa Council and the local veterans association. In fact, a large number of local divers joined Canadian civilian and US navy divers in searching for the plane. Unfortunately, the first thing found was a number of unexploded bombs from the attack, still fused after sitting on the bottom of the harbour as ships had sailed over them for forty years. We were ordered to suspend the search and the Japanese navy countermined the bombs and detonated them, cancelling any hope of finding the aircraft.

It was then Stuart Soward asked if there was any chance we might be able to erect a memorial to Hammy at the site. This was a tall order indeed considering he had been an enemy, but after some meetings, explanations, and discussions over time,  the local people and veterans not only agreed to Lt Gray’s memorial, but also donated a beautiful site in a park overlooking the bay, and the Onagawa Lions Club undertook to maintain it in perpetuity. This set a precedent throughout Japan: Never before had a memorial been erected to a former enemy. However, Onagawa Mayor Suda encouraged his fellow citizens, saying:-

“By forgetting past sentiments and feelings of rivalry we can make our best effort to enhance ties of goodwill and friendship between Canada and Japan and deepen exchanges and understanding between our two people. It is I trust a most relevant and excellent thing for us to do”.

At the time the memorial was dedicated, the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo assessed it as the biggest Canadian news event ever in Japan with over 60 million Japanese being exposed to the story. The dedication ceremony was broadcast worldwide on CNN television.

Since that time, whenever Esquimalt-based ships have visited Japan, they have sent a contingent of sailors to conduct a ceremony at the memorial, and in 2008 HMCS Ottawa sailed into Onagawa Bay for a highly successful first visit ever made to that community by a Canadian naval vessel.  Sadly, Mayor Suda has passed away but before he died he expressed the hope Onagawa would twin with a Canadian city.

We see a twinning with Onagawa as an excellent opportunity for Esquimalt to build on a relationship that already exists. It will provide the chance to engage in the wider world beyond local boundaries and connect with a very fascinating cultural counterpart. The current naval association is limited to occasional visits and by itself will never be able to fully exploit this unique and rather wonderful chance for a fruitful   exchange of ideas, information and people, which also has the potential to present economic opportunities. I have discussed this with Admiral Pile, the Naval Commander, and he supports the concept of Esquimalt supplementing the current naval connection by forming a vibrant and rewarding twin city relationship.

In addition to providing the opportunity for Esquimalt citizens, and organizations such as the Council, the Lions Club and the Legion to connect with their Onagawa counterparts, I especially hope it will provide an opportunity for the young people of both communities to communicate, interact and perhaps exchange visits. I know from personal experience, it would open a whole new world to them and contribute something of great value in their lives.

Email Terry Milne at: terrymilne@shaw.ca

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010 | Tim Morrison
 
CRD’s Sewage Treatment Plan Should Be Flushed Down the Toilet

-Esquimalt residents expose  CRD sewage strategy as major slap in the face

Do you know about the Capital Regional District’s short-sighted plans to locate all of the CRD’s sewage treatment liquid waste management right here in Esquimalt, a plan that was put together without any community consultation with Esquimalt? Did you also know that the CRD would prefer to locate an additional bio-solids plant as close as possible to their planned sewage plant in Esquimalt? Be sure to read these two recent important articles from the Victoria Times Colonist:

http://www.timescolonist.com/technology/votes+Wednesday+sewage+site/3178224/story.html

and

http://www.timescolonist.com/news/Esquimalt+councillors+appalled+sewage+plant+plan/3183805/story.html

Very reflective of community opposition to such a plan, Esquimalt resident and respected community leader Beth Burton-Krahn spoke with passion and vigour in her address to Esquimalt Council during public input on Monday evening as follows:

Madame Mayor and Council,

With regards to the recent about face by the CRD and their decision to implement a centralized sewage treatment plant on the miniscule rocky outcrop that is known as McCloughlin Point, I’d like to make the following suggestion:

Forget having conversations around amenities for our community, forget mitigation; it’s time for litigation.

Due to the undemocratic and unbalanced decision making process at the table of the CRD’s Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee, the representative for Esquimalt (Mayor Desjardins), with only one vote, but the highest stake in the entire sewage venture, is effectively persona non-grata in the minds of the CRD.  This has been the underlying problem with this project all along reaching back many, many years.

Once upon a time the plan was that the CRD would simply ask the Department of National Defense (DND) to divest their land at Macaulay Point so that the CRD could buy it and actualize their archaic plans for a centralized sewage treatment plant and bio-solids processing plant in what is essentially a residential neighbourhood.  You can imagine their surprise when DND said “No” to letting them have the land.  Desperation set in.

Now along side of this process you had an active group of Esquimalt residents who wanted to offer a possible solution to the CRD.  These residents formed the Sewage Treatment Action Group (STAG). STAG invited the CRD to examine and investigate McCloughlin Pt as part of a comprehensive, truly distributed sewage treatment system, using the latest technology and fully incorporating integrated resource management.

A review of McCloughlin came back saying it was an unsuitable site for sewage treatment.  But this did not deter the CRD in any way.  They have decided to de facto replace Macaulay Pt with McCloughlin Pt and build a centralized plant: With one hitch, no site for bio-solids.  Now the CRD says it will pump solids to the Hartland landfill.  Don’t believe it!  You can bet they are looking at a site closer to McCloughlin Pt.  After four years, and $22 million spent on studies and consultations, we’re back to square one, a massive centralized plant in Esquimalt, using out-dated technology.  It’s time to put some teeth into our response to the CRD, it’s time for legal action.

Esquimalt community leader and Esquimalt Review contributor Beth Burton-Krahn served as the founding president of the Esquimalt Residents Association and remains heavily involved in a variety of Esquimalt volunteer activities.

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CRD’s Stinky Decision-Making on Sewage Treatment

Monday, June 21, 2010 | Tim Morrison

CRD’s Stinky “Decision” on Sewage Treatment

-Esquimalt refuses to accept CRD’s short-sighted sewage plan

Something really stinks about the Capital Regional District’s recent decision to locate the entire region’s liquid sewage treatment plant at McCloughlin Point in Esquimalt. At this week’s Council meeting, Mayor Barb Desjardins and the entire Council were unanimous in expressing their frustration, outrage, and disgust for the CRD’s heavy-handed approach of moving forward with a sewage plan that directly impacts Esquimalt’s waterfront and land use without any local community consultation whatsoever.

Esquimalt’s Sewage Treatment Action Group (STAG) President Kim Bellefontaine summed up community frustration best in her public input comments to Council at Monday’s Council meeting as follows:

Mayor and Council, respectfully, the CRD’s sewage treatment planning has been a complete charade.  Over $20 million dollars spent and years of time wasted and it’s come down to this.

This plan is not the result of the best and most innovative technology for the region or minimizing social and environmental impacts.  It’s not about maximizing beneficial re-use of resources, reducing greenhouse gases or putting our region on a foundation for greater sustainability.  This is not the plan that the experts supported or that was consulted on with the public.  All of the planning has been an utter sham.  It’s all come down to the fact that McCloughlin Point and Hartland were the only sites the CRD could get.

This treatment plan is a travesty for the region.

McCloughlin Point is the wrong place for a centralized liquid facility; experts have told us so and this has never been our community’s vision for the use of the site.  It will not support major resource recovery; only phosphorous recovery may now be reasonably feasible.  And while the CRD has had to firmly name the liquid plant, they have only loosely pointed the finger at Hartland landfill, while looking for another spot.  Why is it that the CRD doesn’t have to provide the details of viable biosolids management yet?  How are we to know what the real impacts to our community could be?  Right now we’ve only been presented one-half of an already half-baked plan, and they are looking for other sites for biosolids and you can bet they are looking as close to Esquimalt as they can get.  This is just not unacceptable.

And now our community is expected to take the brunt of the impacts and engage in mitigation and amenity discussions, when the CRD can’t really tell us about biosolids component and what the full effects to our community could be.  I and many others have absolutely no trust or confidence in the CRD’s ability to fairly engage.  Our community has not been consulted on this proposed use of the McCloughlin and engagement after decision making is not acceptable.

Mayor and Council we need your help.  We need you to push for real and significant improvements to this plan, not just mitigation and amenities.  We need you to ensure there is no trucking of biosolids under any circumstances.  And we need you to ensure that our community is treated fairly and that there is meaningful engagement for our citizens.  A few hours of lip-service in the summer and fall after decisions have been made is just not going to cut it.

Esquimalt resident Kim Bellefontaine is the founding President of the Sewage Treatment Action Group (STAG), a grassroots community group that formed in response to the Minister of Environment’s directive to the Capital Regional District (CRD) to design a new, innovative, environmentally-responsible, and community supported plan to better treat the region’s sewage waste.

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Growing Old with Grace…in Esquimalt

Tuesday, June 15, 2010 | Tim Morrison

Silver Threads – by Esquimalt resident Mitch Stirling

The story goes that many years ago a remote tribe in Indonesia; on the island of Bali, I believe, used to sacrifice and eat their old men.

The Vancouver islanders, I’m exquisitely pleased to say, would never be tempted to pop my 64 year old bod’ in a missionary pot, or stretch me out like a rack of ribs on a barbeque. Rare, medium or well done, I don’t think I would ever tempt the taste buds of even the very least discerning cannibal gastronome!

On the contrary, as a new immigrant to Canada, it is a wonderful thing to discover that the ‘more mature citizens’ (like me) are generally treated with great care and kindness by society. Not that I am a particularly old specimen, but the chances are that I will live a few years longer here in my newly adopted country than in my old home in Africa where life was becoming a serious daily test of survival.

My own dearest mother, bless her, died there a short while ago because there was no blood for a transfusion that she desperately needed, and there was no gas for her cremation, and we buried her in a plain pine box, because grave robbers were digging up the expensive ones for resale.

You see what I mean? It’s a fact; life for the elderly in Esquimalt is kinder and gentler and very noticeable it is too to a newcomer.  Numerous walking examples of this can be seen everywhere on any day of the week, happily going about their daily tasks.

That’s a wonderful compliment to Canadian society as a whole, and as I rush towards my allotted three score and ten (with drogues fully out to slow things down) I realize more and more that this is a good place to be, geographically and emotionally.

As you start to get a bit longer in the tooth, you suddenly wake up one day to the realization that you have became somewhat segregated by age and almost “invisible”. You have passed your “sell-by” date. You can’t press “replay”.  But, gradually, you come to terms with this, plus the inevitable fact that you may not make the Winter Olympics team next time around, or play ice hockey for the Canucks!

At this point in life’s colourful pageant, you also need things that you never imagined you would need. It happens to all of us, I promise.

Most certainly you do not want is to be a burden on anybody, nor a financial drain on the ‘system’.

What you do want is to cruise quietly in the sure knowledge that people care and are still interested in your ‘silly’ old stories.  In Esquimalt this happens; it’s part of the social culture, it’s a way of life.

Now where’s my Harley? I’m off on a ‘quiet cruise’. And I think I’ll drop a pony tail, and get me some tattoos (Army and Leggy on the appropriate parts!) and a droopy Mex moustache.  And a crash helmet like the old Kaiser used to wear with a spike on top!

Esquimalt Review contributing writer Mitch Stirling is a recent African immigrant to Canada who settled in Esquimalt in the Craigflower Road area last year. Previously a resident of Zimbabwe, Mitch is very appreciative of his new adopted country and remains very concerned for the future of his motherland.  Email Mitch at m.stirling@shaw.ca

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Friday, June 04, 2010 | Tim Morrison

Yo-ho-ho, and a Bundle of Fun!

– Buccaneer Days is a time to celebrate Esquimalt

Arrr, Matey! Yo-ho-ho, it’s that time of year again. It’s time for Esquimalt to strut its stuff, to show off our community spirit to ourselves and visitors alike. No public event defines Esquimalt bigger, better and more fun than our legendary Buccaneer Days. It is one of those community-wide celebrations that has something for everyone, from our youngest kids to our most seasoned seniors and all of us that fall somewhere in between.

Taking place the weekend of June 11 to June 13, this has become our community’s tradition for kicking-off the start of summer. This year’s events include a seniors’ barbeque, a teen dance, fireworks, pancake breakfast, parade, beer (and root beer) gardens, various sporting events, craft fair, community dance, and even free pony rides just to name a bit of what will surely be remembered as fun, fun, and more fun.

For a full review of everything that is planned and a schedule of events, click this link: Esquimalt Buccaneer Days and start planning your participation in one of the most fun aspects about living in Esquimalt.

Esquimalt is great place to live. We are a seaside people with a strong affection for our maritime setting. We cherish our home. We celebrate our community. And, that is the whole point of Buccaneer Days! Check it out and discover (or rediscover) the treasure that is Esquimalt.

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How Much are We Worth?

June-01-2010 | Tim Morrison

How Much are We Worth?

– Measuring the true “value” of Esquimalt

Wow! Like many of you this past week, I received by property tax notice in the mail and it was a jump, a rather high jump. Suffice to say, I was expecting a figure a fair bit more south than what I will have to hand over to the Esquimalt’s municipal coffers. That got me thinking about the true value of Esquimalt property and how we go about determining our community’s “value”.

When most people think about the various communities of the Capital Regional District, places like Oak Bay often get top consideration as the most valuable land while Esquimalt—rather unfairly—gets the short shrift. Those of us that actually live here in Esquimalt, however, see our community as a very precious place. Sure, we have experienced the on-again, off-again promises of building a better, more aesthetically pleasing use of our land. Maybe, it will happen one day and maybe it won’t. Nevertheless, there are other more meaningful ways for measuring a community’s value.

Esquimalt’s value is not so much about dollars. Yes, we have the “location, location, location” aspect that realtors love to go on about. Our close proximity to the water, green spaces, and downtown Victoria satisfy all those checkboxes. But, more than that, we have a much higher value that comes from being a strong community.

Our community is active, engaged, and committed to providing a place that we all feel great affection for. That became quite apparent when a group of residents assembled last month at Municipal Hall to provide their input on the true meaning of Esquimalt. The gathering came as a result of an open invitation by Esquimalt’s Centennial Planning Committee to help define Esquimalt’s “brand” in preparation of our municipality’s fast-approaching 100th birthday in 2012.

The meeting’s facilitator was Victoria Symphony music director and Esquimalt resident, Peter McCoppin, who led the enthusiastic group in a manner not unlike conducting a lively movement of music.

Our history, our geography, our uniqueness, and most importantly, our people were all articulated with the confidence of a fine-tuned orchestra. The lesson: Esquimalt has great value, a very special kind of value that surpasses anything that our property assessments, tax notices, and realtors can measure.

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Ever wonder what’s on the mind of our Mayor? Well, starting today in an online exclusive, EsquimaltReview.com will feature a monthly mayoral column by Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins to provide our community with an overview of how she spent her month and a snapshot of some of the major issues that Esquimalt Municipal Hall is encountering.

Mayor’s Monthly Musings for May, 2010

-By Mayor Barb Desjardins 

I am already hearing from many residents and businesses of the surprise they got when receiving their tax notice this year. The increase you see in your property taxes is the result of an increase in property assessment in Esquimalt, coupled with an increase in tax levies by CRD, BC Transit, Schools and the municipality’s increase of 3.9%.

Municipalities have a challenge. How do we continue to provide the services we do on only 8% of your total tax outlay? Were you aware of this? The federal government collects 50%, the province 42% and municipalities 8% of all tax revenues.

In Esquimalt we have a challenge. You receive significant services.  Esquimalt, with a population of approximately 17000, provides it’s own fire service, recreation services, public works and police (shared with Victoria) services. These services are where 78% of your municipal tax dollars are spent.

These are tremendous resources and benefit for our community that come at a cost.

Council and staff worked very hard to minimize your tax increase this year.

I am determined to continue to look at ways and means of providing the environment within Esquimalt, that can create greater tax base and greater revenues for the municipality, without, digging significantly further into your already stretched pockets.

And now for something completely different……

May has been a significant month for our neighbors, CFB Esquimalt, and the Pacific Fleet of Canada’s Navy. I have had the honor of being your representative at several Navy centennial events. I look forward to the International Fleet review, which happens to occur on the weekend of Esquimalt annual Buccaneer Days celebration this June.

I would welcome your thoughts and feedback regarding this article or other issues that may come up. I can be found many ways but mayor@esquimalt or 250-414-7100 is a great start.

Barb Desjardins

Mayor, Township of Esquimalt

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To Serve and Protect

May 12, 2010 | Tim Morrison

To Serve and Protect

Esquimalt’s stance on policing budget leaves many questions

We elect our Mayor and Council to serve our community and protect our cherished tax dollars. Sometimes, that requires taking a stand. With the passing of Esquimalt’s annual budget this week, it is becoming increasingly clear that Esquimalt Council is ready to cut its ties with the Victoria Police Department.

The budget was adopted without including the required $400,000 to cover Esquimalt’s portion of the increased costs for VicPD’s budget as approved by the Victoria Police Board. That’s money on top of the millions we already pay to cover policing. Esquimalt funds over 14 per cent of the VicPD police budget, but most people in Esquimalt will tell you we have received very little in return for our contributions. Hence, Mayor Barb Desjardins and Esquimalt Council are taking a stand.

Suddenly, it appears we now have everybody’s attention. Mayor Dean Fortin and City of Victoria are demanding we pay. VicPD Police Chief Jamie Graham and the Victoria Police Board are demanding we pay. We are not used to this kind of attention. For years, we have been ignored when it came to discussing our policing needs.

This whole saga is starting to look like a really bad marriage break-up. The marriage is clearly coming to an end, everybody knows it, but no one will come out and actually say it. Lawyers are speaking on our behalves. There are feelings of bad blood, resentment, and a yearning need to separate and move on.  There are even rumours that we have already started dating the Saanich Police Department as we reach out for a new partner to fulfill our needs.

Like any bad break-up, there will be costs involved and we will likely still end up having to pay the $400,000 as part of the divorce agreement. That is unless Esquimalt Council has legal advice that tells them otherwise, but that would be unlikely. Even if we pursue a courtship with Saanich, it will still take months before our old marriage is annulled and the new marriage is consummated. It is unlikely that Saanich will be patrolling our streets prior to the end of this year’s budget.

The gig is up. The marriage is over. Esquimalt is ready to move on. But, unfortunately, the reality is that our bill still needs to be settled. So, what does that mean for our municipality’s budget? We have been told that we are getting a 3.9% tax increase with no funds allotted to cover increased policing costs. When the inevitable happens and we are forced to pay up, where will that money come from and what will that do to the status of our 3.9% tax increase? And, what will be our legal costs in disputing this matter? These are questions that require some answers.

Taking a principled stand is highly commendable, but being responsible is equally important.

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Defense and Taxes

Tuesday, April 27, 2010 | Tim Morrison
 
Defense and Taxes
-Esquimalt set for 3.9 % tax increase while bracing for hard hit from DND decrease
 
There is an old joke about taxes. “People who complain about taxes can be divided into two groups: men and women.”
Talking taxes is never easy. Putting together Esquimalt’s 2010-11 municipal budget has required some tricky stick-handling by Esquimalt Council. The final verdict is that both Esquimalt residents and business owners alike will be facing a 3.90% increase in tax rates for the coming year.

When the budget process began earlier this spring, the first draft projected a 5% residential increase almost identical to last year’s hike in residential property taxes. Council, however, seemed determined to come in under last year’s percentages.

“We did go forward with 3.9 % across all classes,” says Councillor Alison Gaul.  “Earlier there was debate back and forth around whether or not to increase the amount for light industry (class 4).  In the end, we were able to increase the same across all classes which I am really happy about.” Gaul was speaking in reference to an option to increase industry tax rates as high as 6.49% that the majority of Council felt was unfair, particularly in the midst of tough economic times.

This year’s budget making became particularly challenging when it was discovered half-way through the budget process that PILT (Payments in Lieu of Taxes) revenue received from the Department of National Defense had suddenly decreased in the amount of almost half a million dollars. As Esquimalt is home to a military base, we receive about 40% of our municipal revenues from the federal government in direct payments rather than property taxes.  The cause of the budget’s big hole was that the assessment of one of the DND’s properties had decreased substantially over last year.

In order to minimize both budget cuts and tax increases, Council opted to transfer significant funds from the municipality’s Working Capital Reserve to help top up the budget shortfalls.

“One thing that is interesting to note is that this money was set aside years ago in a special working capital reserve fund specifically in case we have difficulty with an unanticipated depreciation on one of our PILT properties,” explains Gaul. “That is what happened this year – so we were able to access the fund.  We are fortunate today that past decision-makers had the wisdom to set aside money in case this happened.”

“Esquimalt has made good choices over the years about setting aside reserve funds,” says Gaul.  “This has allowed us to apply for grants when they have come available like the Archie Browning Upgrade and the sidewalks in the industrial area.”

“We have plans established as to how to replenish each fund when it is depleted as well,” adds Gaul.

Hence, while we as taxpayers will be facing only a modest rate increase, we will still be on the hook to pay back the capital reserve fund in the coming years.  What we spend today will certainly have to be paid tomorrow.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010| Tim Morrison

Putting Out Fires 

-Esquimalt’s Fire Department gets major restructuring 

Policing issues in Esquimalt are the source of a lot of local griping, but we have also been hearing of many problems within our Fire Department as well. Problems so serious that retired judge Ted Hughes was called in to conduct an independent audit and recommend ways of fixing the department’s predicament.

The audit revealed a difficult working environment within the department for both management and union members which contributed to mounting sick calls and overtime costs. You can read the report by clicking here.

For months, the department has been without a chief. The previous chief, Paul Nelson, was put on indefinite paid leave until he was later “encouraged” to take early retirement at the beginning of this year.

Esquimalt Council and the Esquimalt Firefighter’s Union IAFF Local 4264 then sat down with each other to negotiate a new model designed to solve many of the problems.

As reported this week by Victoria News journalist Lisa Weighton, Council and the Firefighters Union have now signed an agreement to move forward with restructuring that will address leadership and morale with a new chief expected to be appointed imminently as well as a new non-unionized “assistant chiefs” management model.

The current staffing system has a more traditional top-down hierarchy of 24 unionized firefighters working under a chief (vacant) and deputy chief. The new system will reduce the number of union members by four while implementing a wider management team of one fire chief, one deputy chief, three assistant chiefs and a fire station secretary.

Both sides hope to avoid any lay-offs by promoting current union members into the new assistant management positions with the job postings being offered first internally prior to inviting external applicants.

In the event that lay-offs cannot be avoided, then union members willing to take early retirement may qualify for a $25,000 departure bonus.

Restructuring is never pretty, but it is essential that our fire department be in perfect working order. Our safety depends on it.

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People Power

Sunday, April 11, 2010 | Tim Morrison

People Power 

-Esquimalt’s Volunteers recognized for their service 

Esquimalt’s Mayor Barb Desjardins hosted an appreciation banquet this evening for the dozens of volunteers that serve on the municipality’s advisory committees. The Mayor described Esquimalt’s volunteers as “the heartbeat of the community.”  She emphasized that Esquimalt’s small-town appeal and vibrancy is a reflection of the immense involvement from Esquimalt’s citizens.

Whether through municipal governance, special events, schools, sports, churches, charities and service clubs, Esquimalt’s volunteers are the lifeblood that provide a labour of love to help us thrive as a community.

This year’s Esquimalt’s outstanding volunteer achievement award was given to Sherri Robinson for her service as Esquimalt’s official archivist. Mayor Desjardins also noted her appreciation for Robinson’s extensive work in conceiving and writing Esquimalt’s historic Walking Tours available at http://myesquimalt.com

A fifth-generation Esquimalt resident considered to be the leading authority on the story of Esquimalt, Robinson is also a noted writer, storyteller, and historian.

Robinson is a prime example of the immense talent that exists within our community. We are a place, but we are also people. We are people that care, that cooperate, and that collaborate in maintaining our home of Esquimalt.

After all, it is the people of Esquimalt that make our community such a great place to live.

If you haven’t already, get out there and volunteer. You will be the better for it and the community will be better for it.

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Building Up Esquimalt

Tuesday, March 30, 2010 | Tim Morrison

 Building Up Esquimalt

-Esquimalt’s Latest Condo Project Tests Zoning Bylaws 

Esquimalt’s latest condo development sailed through the public hearing and approval stages earlier this year and all signs point to a positive outcome. The developers, Kang & Gill Construction Ltd, are calling their project “The Skyline”. The plan is for a 62-unit, six storey luxury condominium to be located at 924 Esquimalt Road off Carlton Terrace just west of Head Street.

An area in need of some tender loving care, the developers are promoting it with such pledges as: “…its rooftop garden is just one of the many elements that will revitalize the neighbourhood.” Esquimalt municipal planners have identified the area as a target for higher density.

Replacing a neglected land parcel, the project is seen as a key act in the gentrification (in the positive sense of the word) of Esquimalt. Casual comments among local residents indicate a negative perception of the site’s past. But, in a letter to Council dated last November, the developers wrote, “we feel strongly that investing in the area is a good thing and the first step in initiating positive change in the community. Analogous to cognitive behaviour therapy, changes in the external environment be it behaviour or the creation of an attractive building can stimulate positive growth in the internal milieu of both an individual and a community. ”

The wood-frame construction is keeping with the provincial government’s new building code that allows structures up to six storeys to now be built with wood. Previously, wood construction was limited to four storeys. Along with the rooftop garden, the project is billing itself as “green” with plans to enter into a partnership with the Victoria Car Share Co-Op program. The developers will buy the required co-op shares for each unit in the building as well as supply a fuel-efficient vehicle. The scheme is similar to that in use by Victoria’s Dockside Green community that gives members access to nineteen cars, trucks, and minivans stationed around Victoria.

Concerns expressed at the Hearing related to loss of trees, parking and traffic problems along Carlton Terrace, and that there is only one elevator which could cause problems in a medical emergency, but no objections to adding new heights to the area. In the end, Esquimalt Council approved the project and the rezoning of the neighbourhood for designated high-rise development.  The current zoning is for mid-rise four storeys.

With current budget deliberations putting renewed pressures on Council to increase revenues through new development, Council will be more and more tempted to support increasingly bigger projects…..that is, IF those projects begin to come forward.

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Cop Talk

Tuesday, March 23, 2010 | Tim Morrison

Cop Talk 

-Esquimalt residents call for a new approach to policing. 

Approximately fifty Esquimalt residents attended a recent Town Hall meeting on the state of our policing.

Mayor Barb Desjardins took the opportunity to inform the community on the status of a key provincial government audit recommendation that Esquimalt contract out for its own police services rather than the current amalgamated policing we have with the City of Victoria. (See post below, dated March 10, 2010).

She stated that Esquimalt will move quickly in the next few months with the Province to appoint an inaugural Esquimalt Police Board that will be tasked with establishing Esquimalt’s new policing model. Esquimalt’s choices will be limited to contracting with either VicPD or Saanich Police. The RCMP, the only other viable option, are not accepting any new contracts until after their 2012 collective agreement is negotiated.

During the public input session, community complaints mostly revolved around poor police response times. Some people indicated waiting as much as three hours for police to respond to calls. There was also a lot of frustration expressed about teenagers drinking noisily after dark in neighbourhood parks with no patrolling from police. Police Chief Jamie Graham responded that VicPD are trying their best with limited resources and the audience seemed willing to hear him out and keep the door open to continuing our association with VicPD.

We, as a community, have an important decision to make. Essentially, we have two options. We can renegotiate a new relationship with the VicPD to provide contracted services based on terms that work better for Esquimalt’s needs. Or, we can go a new direction altogether and contract our policing from Saanich.

The track record with VicPD has not been good for Esquimalt. In fairness, VicPD does not have it easy. They are dealing with difficult budget constraints, police officer numbers much lower than the provincial average, and a very challenging responsibility to police Victoria’s complex, inner-city, “downtown” plethora of crime issues, including  the very time-consuming social problems of substance abuse that most of us prefer to turn a blind eye to.

In Esquimalt, we have mostly suburban crime problems that are more likely to be deemed “low priority calls” by an urban-focused police force. And, that means we are paying for a service that it not being fully provided. By contrast, the crime issues and policing expectations of Esquimalt and Saanich are much more compatible.  By all accounts, Saanich Police are better managed, in better financial shape, and provide a higher level of service with police staffing levels much better than the provincial average.

According to their mission statement, Saanich Police strives “to provide quality police service by working with our partners and to ensure the safety and security of our community.”  That sounds about right for Esquimalt.

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Council Continues Bean-Counting

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 | Tim Morrison

Council Continues Bean-Counting 

-Latest budget figures set property tax increase at 4.54% 

As Esquimalt Council met this week in an ongoing effort to determine the coming fiscal year’s budget, one thing became certain. Property taxes are going up. The only question is by how much? That’s the bad news.

Some good news, however, is that Council did manage to reduce their original draft tax increase from 4.78% down to 4.54%, not much of a reduction but it is a start. Council seems somewhat committed to getting that figure down even further and will continue deliberations on the budget until a mid-May deadline.

“I am not comfortable with 4.78%,” said Councillor Lynda Hundleby. “This is especially hard on people with fixed incomes in a difficult economy.”

Council came up with the additional savings mostly by eliminating a $50,000 line item to hire a consultant to help the municipality design a Development Cost Charge (DCC) model that would create additional revenue by charging developers to assist with the costs of municipal infrastructure needed to serve additional density added to the community.

“I asked myself what would I pull out and what stood out as the least harmful,” added Hundleby. “This item seems to have the least impact.”

Mayor Barb Desjardins and Councillor Don Linge disagreed.

“We need to have the ability to pull in those extra dollars through Development Cost Charges,” said Desjardins. “We cannot continue to defer this item year after year. It’s going to be a pinch, but in the longterm, its going to be beneficial.”

“We are not doing ourselves a good service over the long term,” said Linge. “Even though I don’t like tax increases, sometimes we have to do it for the sake of good planning.”

The majority of Council thought otherwise and voted to remove the item.

Currently, the draft budget is mostly status quo. An attempt by Councillor Randall Garrison to increase municipal funding for community group grants was defeated.

“This is a tough year for everyone,” said Mayor Desjardins. “Municipal governments cannot take on the added burdens created by government downloading.”

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Back to the Future

Wednesday, March 10, 2010 | Tim Morrison

Back to the Future 

-Police Audit recommends that Esquimalt goes back to managing its own policing 

What’s the most common complaint of Esquimalt residents about Esquimalt? Most people will tell you that it is the lack of a visible police presence and inadequate response times to police calls. Ever since we amalgamated our police department with the VicPD in 2003, suspicion has spread among Esquimalt residents that the vast majority of policing resources are being concentrated almost entirely in Victoria. That means we are paying for a vital service that, real or perceived, is neglecting us.

This predicament led to calls from Esquimalt Council for an independent provincial audit of the Victoria Police Department. The results of the audit were released this week and have made recommendations on improving delivery of police services for both Victoria and Esquimalt, including “the establishment of a dedicated police patrol” for Esquimalt. That means, we may soon be independently in charge of our own community’s policing, not unlike the past.

“Overall, the audit found that the Victoria PD is providing effective policing to both communities, but there are some opportunities to increase the level of satisfaction felt by Esquimalt residents,” said Solicitor General Kash Heed in a provincial news release.  ”Moving ahead, we will work with both communities on a new governance structure.”

The audit results are divided into two reports:

* The Service Level Review examined officer deployment, call load, response times and associated costs.

* The Focused Inspection and Use of Force Review was a routine review conducted under Section 40 of the Police Act by the police service division, which audits independent municipal police departments to ensure they are in compliance with the provincial standards for municipal police departments in British Columbia and related regulations.

In the Service Level Review, a key consideration was parity of service delivery between Victoria and Esquimalt. Three of the six recommendations in the Service Level Review suggest the Township of Esquimalt change its current arrangement with the VicPD including:

* The current service delivery model should be revised to allow Esquimalt to contract for policing services with an independent municipal police department in the Capital Regional District. (Currently, Esquimalt and Victoria PD are amalgamated under the Police Act.) The terms of the contract should include requirements for a minimum level of services, a mandatory dedicated patrol for Esquimalt, opting in/out provisions for specific services and a fixed schedule for contract review.

* As part of the contract negotiations, a new funding allocation formula should be developed with a regular schedule for review.

* Esquimalt should have a separate governance structure to address police issues within Esquimalt, oversee policing service in its jurisdiction and manage the contract with its policing partner.Other recommendations call for the Victoria PD to revise its policy to clarify patrol area assignments, and establish performance measures for patrol such as a breakdown of statistics by municipality to include the number of calls recorded and dispatched, and average response times.

Both the audit’s reports can be found at: www.pssg.gov.bc.ca/police_services.

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Show Me The Money

Tuesday, March 02, 2010 | Tim Morrison

Show Me the Money 

-Esquimalt Council proposes another 5% property tax increase for the coming year. 

Welcome to “budget season.” This is when all levels of government disclose how much the coming year will cost us as taxpayers. Esquimalt is no different. While the rest of us were busy following the Olympics last week, Esquimalt Municipal Council held three public meetings to examine our community’s budget and, specifically, property tax rates for the coming year.

According to a recent article in the Victoria News, Esquimalt residents are the most heavily taxed residents in the Capital Regional District. For the past year, we paid $414 per $100,000 of assessed property value. By comparison, the lowest taxed municipalities, North Saanich and Metchosin, paid only $178 and $183 per $100,000 respectively.

The first draft of this year’s upcoming budget proposes a tax increase of just under 5% for Esquimalt. That is on top of the 5% increase we had paid last year. Council is committed to working on reducing that “draft figure” before passing a final budget by May 15.

The challenge before Council is that we are a small community with an expensive level of municipally-funded services. We get 40% of our revenue directly from the Department of National Defense. Our business tax base is small. That leaves residential property owners as the main source of revenue.

Residents are encouraged to provide the Mayor and Council with their input either by attending a Council meeting or by contacting our elected representatives via email and phone.  This link provides the contact information for Council members: http://www.esquimalt.ca/municipalHall/mayorCouncil/contacts.aspx

Council wants our money but it is their obligation to explain why they want our money and how they plan to spend it.

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The 12-Storey Program

Thursday, February 18, 2010 | Tim Morrison

The 12-Storey Program 

-Councillor Gaul explains her side of the “storey” on OCP changes 

Councillor Ali Gaul recently achieved success with getting changes to the Official Community Plan (OCP) approved by Council (see February 16th story below). EsquimaltReview.com caught up with Councillor Gaul to better understand the rationale and process behind the OCP amendments.

Gaul sponsored the motion to allow for 12-storey heights rather than the current 10, so why 12?

“The number 12 came directly from public input and feedback,” says Gaul. “It is supported by the stacks of written, formal feedback we received.  It is also consistent with the majority of phone calls and emails I received from the community.  The feedback we got from the Urban Development Institute also suggested that Esquimalt look at encouraging buildings in the moderate height range.”

Gaul describes the community feedback as diverse and passionate.  “I have received more calls, emails and feedback on this, than on any other issue we have faced during my term on Council,” says Gaul. “Some feel that 12 is too high.  Some feel that we should have put no limit on height so that we can encourage high rises.  The majority of feedback I’ve received is along the lines of, ‘I don’t really like 12 personally, but I understand it’ and ‘thank you for listening.’”

In response to complaints about the lengthy and, at times, frustrating process to amend the OCP, Gaul admits that it has been a long and difficult haul for staff, Council and the community.

“I am grateful that people have remained engaged through to its conclusion.  The perseverance is a reflection of the deep personal investment people have in our community,” says Gaul. “As for process, there is certainly room for improvement…and it’s important to take the time to reflect on exactly how we can tackle our next big issues smoothly.”

The OCP changes turned out to be quite divisive for Council with Mayor Barb Desjardins and Councillor Don Linge opposing Gaul’s motion and arguing that it will do nothing to help Esquimalt’s community revitalization.

“Decisions at the Council table are often split,” responds Gaul. “One of the strengths of this Council is that once a decision is made, every member acts professionally and works hard to achieve our common strategic goals…even if they voted against the decision. “

“I fully expect that will continue,” adds Gaul. “We all want to encourage positive development in Esquimalt, and I predict that we’ll all work to accomplish that.”

Supporters of the Royal Legion Tower proposal at 622 Admirals Road appeared especially upset with Gaul’s motion being passed by Council.

“I recognize that this has been particularly hard on supporters of the Legion Tower,” says Gaul. “In September of 2008, the Council of the day resolved that we would undertake a review of the OCP and they put the Legion project in abeyance until the review was completed.   The OCP review was never intended to make a decision on a specific proposal, as the OCP is a framework for growth and development in our entire community – not at one site.”

“However, having a specific project ‘on hold’ has undeniably had an impact on the public perception of this process.  Supporters of the Legion Project hoped that the OCP review would deliver a clear mandate to approve their project.   Instead, it delivered a conclusion to the review process, a reaffirmation that our community supports moderate growth and the freedom for the Legion to come forward with their project proposal at any time.”

Gaul finished off with a reminder to the community to stay active, engaged and informed.

“I really want to thank the community for coming forward – their input is vital in decision making,” concludes Gaul.

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Esquimalt’s Growing Pains

Tuesday, February 16, 2010 | Tim Morrison

Esquimalt’s Growing Pains 

-OCP is officially amended to allow for increased building heights & density 

It was a long and (at times) convoluted road of delays, debate, and confusion. After a year in the making, the rough ride finally achieved closure last night as Council resolved to amend the Official Community Plan (OCP) to increase building heights from the current 10-storey limit to 12 storeys. In addition, the allowable lot coverage of a project, referred to as floor area ratio, was also increased, allowing for slightly greater footprints of buildings on a given parcel of land.

The decision was not unanimous. Mayor Barb Desjardins and Councillor Don Linge voted against the changes. Councillor Linge stated that we set out as a community to identify strategies for attracting new development, growth, and revitalization, but that these changes do nothing to support that goal. He argued that we have achieved nothing for our efforts, but have lost the ability to get density bonusing amenities for developments between 10 and 12 storeys as well as not gaining the flexibility to look at projects that exceed 12 storeys.

“I don’t think it is a good solution,” said Linge. “We owe it to the public to be more flexible with the OCP.” Without flexibility, Linge warns that we will not achieve greater densities, local businesses will continue to move away, and residents will be burdened with higher taxes as new revenue never materializes. “I do not see us moving forward by simply substituting one number with another,” adds Linge.

Mayor Desjardins echoed Linge’s view. In a veiled reference to the Legion Tower 17-storey proposal, Desjardins questioned the new OCP’s ability to “allow us to do good planning…it does not allow us to look at if a project is the best thing for the community and whether (a project site) is the best place for a certain kind of development.”

The majority of Council disagreed. Councillor Randall Garrison chastised the Mayor for her comments by countering that “if having a number is supposedly bad planning, then having no number would be a developer’s heaven.”

Councillor Meagan Brame warned that a more “flexible” OCP could expose Esquimalt to legal challenges from developers if the community decides not to approve a project. “If we don’t put height limits within the OCP, then we could get whatever height a developer wants…that’s my concern.”

It was left to Councillor Alison Gaul, the mover of the motion, to call for closure. In a passionate address, she called on Council to respect the views of the community. She reinforced that Esquimalt residents have indicated they want growth to be carefully managed and controlled. “This is the number that the public has told Council they are willing to accept,” stated Gaul. “The public has asked us to listen to them and we are listening.”

Councillor Lynda Hundleby summed it up best before casting her vote in favour of the OCP changes. “Time will tell if we made the right decision or not,” concluded Hundleby.

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The Never Ending Story on Storeys

Tuesday, February 09, 2010 | Tim Morrison

The Never Ending Story on Storeys 

-Council Delays OCP Changes…Yet Again. 

Large numbers of Esquimalt residents were jam-packed into this week’s Committee of the Whole council meeting to hear the final fate of Council’s decision on amending Esquimalt’s Official Community Plan (OCP). Specifically, Council was expected to vote on amended building storey heights and a new threshold of density for Esquimalt. After several months of consultation with the general public and extensive discussion by Council, the moment of decision had come….and gone.

Yet again, a decision was delayed. In a split, contentious vote of 4 to 3, Council voted to postpone the issue one further week until next Monday.

Visibly frustrated, Council members appeared embarrassed by the delay that came as a result of not receiving essential information from staff prior to the meeting. It all started on January 18 when Councillor Ali Gaul moved a motion based on public input to amend the OCP to allow for 12 storeys. At that time, Council opted to postpone Gaul’s motion until February 8 in order to ascertain an appropriate new floor area ratio (FAR) number. Along with height, FARs determine the amount of density a project creates for the community through the size of the building in relation to the size of the land including such factors as the number and size of residential units.

The public gallery included many local Royal Canadian Legion members who support plans to construct a new 17-storey tower at the Legion’s 622 Admirals Road location. The fate of the project is largely tied to changes in the OCP, which currently limits construction to ten storeys. The OCP does allow for higher buildings if the developer is willing to contribute towards new amenities for the community.

When Council voted to delay their decision by one further week, the large crowd erupted in frustration and anger. Many Legion supporters stormed out of the meeting while expressing their disgust with the delay. The furry stems from both the community and potential developers not being provided with certainty on what is happening with our OCP.

The whole incident leaves a lingering question or two. When given three weeks to prepare, why did staff not provide Council and the general public with the necessary information (prior to last night’s meeting) to make a final informed decision on heights and density? And why did Council not ensure that staff prepare and provide that essential information prior to the meeting? Could it be that there is a break-down in communications going on at Municipal Hall on what is perhaps the most important issue for our community?

If nothing else, Council needs to make certain that this type of disorder never occurs again. If Esquimalt wants to be taken seriously, it needs to prevent such embarrassments from taking place.

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These are the People in Your Neighbourhood

Friday, February 05, 2010 | Tim Morrison

EsquimaltReview.com is now featuring a new series entitled “These are the People in Your Neighbourhood“. In this edition, Esquimalt Residents Association Director Charles Lavoie profiles the family that runs Esquimalt Bake Shop. If you would like to contribute a community profile about an individual, group, organization, or business in Esquimalt, please send your ideas to editor@esquimaltreview.com

Esquimalt: A Place They Call Home 

-From Vietnam to Canada  

by Charles Lavoie for the Esquimalt Residents Association (ERA)

Profile: Esquimalt Bake Shop owned and operated by Hong Nguyen and Cam Huynh

Over the past 15 years, I have been going regularly to the Esquimalt Bake Shop at Esquimalt Plaza, a real family shop known to many people across our community. Each time, I am impressed with the warm yet professional atmosphere. I have often enjoyed observing the owner, Hong, and her friendly personality at the counter while serving customers and operating the cash register. Certain days over the years, I could see her two children doing their homework or simply drawing. Everyone is greeted with a boisterous “hello” and, when they leave, hear a spirited “thank you”. It is such a refreshing change to feel that you are treated like a human being and not just as another entity with money to collect from.

Who are the owners of the bake shop where locals quickly become regulars? Hong Nguyen and Cam Huynh came to Canada from Vietnam in 1980 as “Boat People”. While he was studying chemistry at the University of Victoria, Cam worked in a bakery at night. Hong worked part time and took care of their daughter Linh and son Loc. During those years, they lived in Colwood. When they heard that there was a bake shop for sale in our community, they decided to relocate to Esquimalt and purchase the bakery.

Cam is a hardworking baker who puts in many hours a week into making delicious treats. As for Hong, she is the counter person. She enjoys serving and interacting with customers. Noticing that people liked to visit the shop and chat with one another, Hong and Cam decided to go one step ahead and applied for a permit to install a few tables and chairs to accommodate a small coffee shop. If you walk by, you will notice people in front of the counter ordering a loaf of bread and some pastries while, along the wall, individuals are sipping a coffee or tea and mingling with others.

As for the “children”, well, they are not children anymore. They are now university students: Linh, 20, in Education and Loc, 19, in Business. One doesn’t need to stay long on the premises to see that the Esquimalt Bake Shop is a place where customers as well as the owners feel comfortable and enjoy each other’s company. As Hong said to me: there are a lot of good people in Esquimalt and this is why she, her husband, and their children call it home.

If you have never been there, I invite you to do so. You will be among friends.

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What’s in a number?

Sunday, January 24, 2010 | Tim Morrison

What’s in a number? 

-Council Moves to Increase Building Height Restrictions to 12 Storeys.    

At what was supposed to be a one-hour January 18 special Committee of the Whole meeting, Esquimalt Council went into overtime before a packed audience to (once again) debate what to do about its Official Community Plan (OCP) and specifically about height restrictions on development.

Council was presented with three options:

  • Option 1: Eliminate height restrictions in OCP and, instead, concentrate on design guidelines, neighbourhood planning, and criteria that are specific enough to ensure new projects suit the area but are also flexible enough to attract development.
  • Option 2: Amend the OCP to allow greater building heights to encourage new development.
  • Option 3: Keep the status quo of a height restriction of only 10 storeys. Allow developers to go over 10 storeys if they are willing to contribute to the cost of community amenities (referred to as “density-bonusing”)

In the end, Council voted 4-3 to go with Option 2, with Councillors Meagan Brame, Alison Gaul, Randall Garrison, and Councillor Lynda Hundleby (who appeared to be the swing vote) voting in favour. That was followed by a motion to set the new height limits at 12 storeys.

In contrast, Mayor Barb Desjardins, Councillor Don Linge, and Councillor Bruce McIldoon argued instead for Option 1. Visibly frustrated, the three dissenting Council members felt that Option 2 would do little to encourage the revitalization of Esquimalt. Those in support, however, argued that the community needed closure on the matter. The community was formally consulted over the past year. It said it was willing to go a little higher on heights because it wanted to see Esquimalt grow as a community in a well-managed fashion. One side of Council sees that only happening through more flexibility while the other says it will happen with a  new 12 storey limit.

Some supporters of the Legion Tower project at the 600-block of Admirals Road attended the meeting and vocally expressed frustration by the decision to limit heights at 12 storeys. The Legion project hopes to go as high as 17 storeys.

While Council moved a motion  to set new height limits at 12, it got stuck on how to decide a new floor area ratio policy, another key element that, along with height, determines development density. That caused Council to postpone the final motion on amendinding the OCP until a future meeting.

Essentially, the OCP is (more or less) the same, but developers will soon be allowed to build up to 12 storeys (instead of the current 10 storeys) without having to negotiate with Council on density-bonusing amenities.

Whether simply adding two additional storeys to the height allowances will do anything to attract new development remains to be seen. Staff warned that the substitution of new numbers may be required in the future if “12” doesn’t work for developers. Reflective of the community, Council is divided on the matter.

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Take Me to Your Leader

Sunday, January 24, 2010 | Tim Morrison

Take Me to Your Leader 

-Mayor Desjardins: Our version of Barack Obama? 

I couldn’t help but make some parallels between Mayor Barb Desjardins and President Barack Obama. Like Obama, Desjardins was elected largely because we wanted change. She carried a message of hope and a new direction. When she began her campaign, she was considered the under-dog with little chance of winning. But, she organized steadfastly at the grassroots level and surprised the political establishment with an overwhelming victory.

Looking south, Obama’s once shiny political standing is starting to fade. He is experiencing trouble. He is still popular, but not nearly as much as when he first took office. Some have even opined that he may not even get re-elected if things don’t start going better for him.

So, what about our own fearless leader? Most people in Esquimalt will tell you that Esquimalt’s hardest working citizen is Mayor Barb Desjardins. She seems to be everywhere. If you are at a community event, most likely the Mayor will be there…that is in between all the other events she is scheduled to visit that same evening. She leads an extensive list of projects, both locally and within the CRD. She has worked tirelessly to increase the positive profile of Esquimalt including greatly improving the level of communication and dialogue that takes place within our community.

Like all politicians, she may have faults, but work ethic is not one of them. We pay her relatively little money for the number of hours she puts into her role, but she never seems to mind. She is focussed, committed, and open.

She is now one-third of the way through her mandate. Less than two years from now, she will face the voters again. Since taking office, she has largely been seen as “a breath of fresh air” for Esquimalt, but there remain plenty of complicated, controversial issues for her to stick handle during the remainder of her term, issues that will certainly test her level of popularity.

To better understand what is on the mind of our Mayor, the following is a recent, unedited copy of the Mayor’s annual address to the community regarding the completion of her first year in office as well as her vision for the New Year ahead.

MAYOR’S ANNUAL ADDRESS, TOWNSHIP OF ESQUIMALT

Mayor Desjardins: “Esquimalt is the community to watch.”

By Mayor Barb Desjardins, December, 2009.

It has been an exciting year. I would like to thank residents of Esquimalt for the opportunity to serve as your mayor for the past year and I am looking forward to the next 2 years with equal energy and excitement.

Your elected officials and municipal staff have worked hard on your behalf and there are significant results. I would quickly like to review some of the work that has been done to date.

The Secondary Suites Bylaw was passed, providing the opportunity for safe, affordable housing as well as potentially providing the opportunity for seniors to “age in place” by having financial assistance.

We improved the pedestrian network by building key sidewalks, crosswalks, and park pathways increasing safety for all users including those with disabilities.

Parks and Recreation have had an active and successful year with the reopening of our Japanese Garden, which is the oldest in North America. We received the matching one million dollar infrastructure grant to upgrade Archie Browning Sports Centre, and, thanks to parks and recreation staff, will be hosting a major sporting event there this spring: the 2010 Victoria Curling Classic. In addition, we held the BC Jr. B Lacrosse Championships at Archie Browning, and hosted another international rugby event in the community this past summer.

This past year could be named: the year of the audit for Esquimalt. We have reviewed, audited and evaluated many of our services, committees, and processes over the past year and although it has taken time and money it has been an extremely valuable process.

Quoting from chapter 4 in the book: Good to Great, by Jim Collins, Esquimalt has undertaken over the past year to: “Confront the Brutal Facts (Yet never Lose Faith)”.

I paraphrase:

The path from good to greatness is created through:

  • Confronting the brutal facts of our current reality create a culture where people have a tremendous opportunity to be heard, for the truth to be heard
  • Hitting the realities of the situation head on
  • Having the right people

Council changed administrative leadership, a decision that has proved to be imperative for meeting my inaugural speech priority of “action-oriented, goal driven government”.

The review and changes we made with Township committees has improved our focus and led to an increased number of committee applications, an indication that committees and their work are seen as valued, and interesting to the public. We have even received applications from non- residents.

We initiated an audit of our police services with respect to service delivery, funding model, and governance. I have pushed hard to have a report in front of you by this date and have been provided reassurance that the report is making its way through the Ministry approval process with an expectation of being made public after being received by the Police Board.

A meeting of the Chief Administrative Officers of both Victoria and Esquimalt, with Deputy Solicitor General Morhart and Assistant Deputy Minister Kevin Begg is scheduled for later this week.

I have worked hard to press the Police Board to change its governance model to recognize the fact that it has two mayors and therefore, as per the Police Act, a co-chair model should be adopted. The board agreed to this, however, the request will not be acted on by Police Services until full review of the audit has occurred.

I will continue to press for completion of the audit and action on your behalf.

Esquimalt has just received the audit report regarding our Fire Services and although we are just starting to digest the results, the message is clear that changes are needed.

Council is prepared to make the decisions that will be required to resolve issues that have been lingering since the split of police and fire services, and to make our hall a great place to work.

Council put forward an ambitious strategic plan last year. We have been able to accomplish many successes in 2009 and will focus the plan and goals for 2010.

If 2009 was the year of the audit, 2010 will be the year of action as a result of those reviews. We look forward to continued growth and development in the community.

The village core project is progressing. The acceptance and excitement within the community to make this happen will assist council to continue the process through to implementation. It will not sit on a shelf.

The past year Esquimalt had community forums on sewage treatment, policing, height and density growth, and business.

This year I would like to continue this well attended format of community engagement. Council direction has benefitted from the input we have received at these meetings.

Through community input gained at the sewage forum co-sponsored by the Township of Esquimalt and Sewage Treatment Action Group, we will continue to look into best practices with respect to waste management. We have positioned ourselves as strong advocates for integrated resource management for both Esquimalt and for the CRD. We will look for ways to pilot new technologies, and use this approach toward our climate action charter commitments. Our village core project could be the application for innovation such as district heating and integrated resource management in Esquimalt.

Public input from the height and density forum and subsequent community input sessions has provided council with direction toward resolution of this issue. The community has supported an increase in height and density within our borders but has stressed to council the need to review each project on its own merits and its fit within the surrounding neighbourhood.

There are still many decisions to be made around density bonusing, development cost charges, and the development of subsequent zoning bylaws to support changes we make. I am committed to completing these in a timely manner so that we will be able to take advantage of them when the market for development improves.

As a result of the business forum we will be working with the Chamber of Commerce toward a business directory and promotion strategy in 2010.

We will be reviewing ways that the municipality can assist businesses through revitalization tax strategies, business improvement associations, and other ideas. It is imperative that this sector of Esquimalt be given the opportunity to thrive. A thriving small business sector means a sustainable and vibrant Esquimalt community.

The growth of tourism within our borders must be fostered. With the success of our brochure development and walking tours we need to build on our destinations and activities that continue to bring people across the bridges, down the tracks, and onto our pathways.

The year of the audit is over. 2010 will be very active for Esquimalt. Over the past year media have at many times indicated Esquimalt is the community to watch for positive change. Our intention is to fulfill these prophecies in 2010. Esquimalt is the community to watch.

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Will He or Won’t He?

Monday, January 11, 2010 | Tim Morrison

Will He or Won’t He? 

-It’s shaping up to be another political horse race in Esquimalt–Juan de Fuca 

These days, federal elections have become almost an annual occurrence in Canada. Mired in minority governments for the past six years, it was widely expected that we would be returning to the polls in 2009. But, that did not happen. That leaves 2010 looking increasingly more likely to be the year that we get to partake, once again, in our civic duty as federal voters. And, as we enter the New Year, the political rumours are already flying.

Just this past week, Victoria-based investigative political reporter Sean Holman posted a story on his website, www.publiceyeonline.com, that Esquimalt Councillor Randall Garrison was in the process of meeting with federal New Democrats “about running for the party in the next election.” Holman pointed out that Garrison stressed that he remains committed to his local Councillor duties, but it appears he is leaving the door open for a possible re-match with Vancouver Island’s favourite political survivor, Dr. Keith Martin.

Garrison challenged incumbent Martin in both the 2004 and 2006 federal elections, having finished as the runner-up by only a narrow margin both times. In the most recent 2008 election, the NDP opted for a different candidate, Jennifer Burgis, who failed miserably by falling into a distant third spot. NDP thinking is that Garrison, who now has a higher local community profile since becoming an Esquimalt Councillor in 2008, offers the best hope for the New Democrats to retake the seat that Martin has precariously held since 1993. It remains to be seen whether Garrison is serious about running or simply just being courteous to the NDP by accepting their invitation to meet.

Also in the picture is Conservative Troy DeSouza who is returning for his own rematch with Martin after losing to our Liberal MP by only 68 votes in 2008. Regardless of whether Garrison runs or not, our riding of Esquimalt–Juan de Fuca will certainly be, once again, one of the most closely watched horse races in the country.

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Are We Becoming Village People?

Monday, January 11, 2010 | Tim Morrison

Are We Becoming Village People? 

No, I am not talking about that silly 1970s music troupe that is forever in our heads with such annoyingly catchy tunes as “YMCA”, but rather about our ability as Esquimalt residents to get out of cars and become compatible with Municipal Hall’s exciting new plans for a pedestrian-oriented Esquimalt Village Centre.

For decades, Esquimalt’s “centre” has been a driver-oriented Esquimalt Plaza where local residents mostly drive in, park, shop, and drive away. It has been a habit that is bad for community development, bad for green community sustainability, and bad for community aesthetics. It is very dated urban planning that needs to be changed if we are serious about revitalizing our community. Hence, Esquimalt is moving in a new direction with its Esquimalt Village Project.

The objectives of the project are to:

  • Create a lively and sustainable Esquimalt town centre, which incorporates a mix of uses and community recreation needs;
  • Revitalize Esquimalt’s town core and enhance community economic development, while providing residents with a wider range of amenities and services;
  • Capitalize on and enhance the value of public and private assets in the core;
  • Enhance sustainability of municipal facilities and infrastructure

Originally, plans were much more ambitious calling for a huge overhaul of both public and private lands (including the existing Esquimalt Plaza) stretching all the way from the Archie Browning Centre to Admirals Road. Plans have since been scaled back to just municipally-owned lands (essentially the old Municipal Hall and Public Works Yard site).

Tasked with developing the “village plan”, planning consultants Hotson, Bakker, Boniface, Haden, and Landeca have been busy these past few months with ongoing presentations to Council and an Open House public input session.

The result is two viable options for mixed-use Village Core development, with retail, residential & civic uses, connected by a more enhanced Thornton Walk, pedestrian-oriented plaza with a  varied architectural concept of differing heights, stepped buildings, non-visible underground parking, shops, restaurants, and possibly even a major public attraction such as a proposed “Children’s Museum”. It would become the city core of Esquimalt with high density surrounded by services easily accessible by foot and bicycle. Generally speaking, Option 1 would have a little more publicly-funded civic use while Option 2 would tilt more towards privately-funded residential uses.

The public like what they see. Over 100 people attended the Open House with feedback being summarized as:

  • Strong support for mixed-use concept and revitalization of the old Hall and Public Works Yard
  • Strong support for an enhanced Town Square or plaza fronting on Esquimalt Road
  • General preference for Option 2, which integrates civic use within a mixed-use building
  • General support for the form, density and height of development – some would prefer lower buildings while others encourage consideration of higher buildings
  • Strong support to see the project move forward – “This idea/vision is long overdue in the Esquimalt area” summing up the general public mood.

Option 2 was the clear favourite with 49% of support while Option 1 was preferred by only 21%. The remaining 30% had no particular preference.

Now, it is up to Council to make the final decision and begin the process of major revitalization for Esquimalt’s urban core. As we enter a new decade, we can also prepare to enter a new and improved Esquimalt.

More information available at: http://www.esquimalt.ca/municipalHall/esquimaltVillageProject/

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How High Are We Willing To Go?

Sunday, December 20, 2009 | Tim Morrison

How High Are We Willing To Go? 

At Esquimalt Council’s final meeting of 2009, Development Services staff presented council with a recommendation to amend the Official Community Plan (OCP) to increase density and development by allowing building heights to go from the current 10-storey limit to 14 storeys.

Barbara Snyder, Esquimalt’s Director of Development Services, referred to the amendment as “a moderate change” in height restrictions. She indicated that 14 was identified as the appropriate number that will attract investment and help spur local growth. In a report to Council, Snyder argued the change “will allow for more intense development in selected areas to achieve more sustainable urban densities in keeping with Smart Growth principles” (managing growth and development of communities that aim to improve environmental, economic and social sustainability, particularly by reducing urban sprawl and dependence on the automobile).  It was further claimed that the recommended OCP change to increase density “will also provide a greater number of consumers to support new and existing businesses within the Township.”

Garrison: “We need OCP changes for greener communities without increasing property taxes”

The recommendation was moved by Councillor Randall Garrison and supported by Councillor Lynda Hundleby. Garrison argued passionately that if we want to promote sustainable, green living while keeping down property taxes, then the logical step is to increase density heights.  Hundleby was torn on the matter, but agreed that Esquimalt was only going to benefit by growth if developers are provided with more certainty on more profitable height regulations.

Desjardin: “I have a real concern with just substituting one number with another.”

Mayor Desjardins and the majority of council, however, remained sceptical.  Desjardins pressed staff on the issue of what would be accomplished with simply replacing one number with another. She contends that going to 14 storeys will result in Council losing its negotiating powers to attain “density bonusing” (see definition below) on projects that go over 10 storeys. “The only thing we end up doing is losing our ability to gain bonus density,” said Desjardins. But Garrison countered that it was a moot point because nothing is happening in Esquimalt at its current height limits with no developers expressing any appetite in density bonusing at a 10 storey starting point.

While Council did reject the change in height restrictions, it made it very clear that it still wanted to foster community growth and work with developers to attract new projects and development with the goal of revitalizing Esquimalt. It unanimously passed a second recommendation to work cooperatively with developers on the issue of “Density Bonusing and Amenities”. This is a strategy used by Council to allow developers to go above the 10-storey OCP limit if the developer is willing to negotiate with the community to offer private investment in public amenities such as parks and recreation. For example, if the proposed Legion Tower at Admirals and Esquimalt Road wanted to go above the OCP height limits (its current proposal is for 17 storeys), then it would have to contribute significant funds to community amenities before getting approval for the density bonusing of an additional 7 stories.

While supportive of the concept, some on Council argued that Esquimalt would be better off to adopt a Development Cost Charge (DDC) bylaw. This would require all real estate developers to pay a development fee based on the project’s size and scope to help cover the municipal costs of increased demands on sewage, water, drainage, streets, and parks. Currently, no such bylaw exists.

In short, our community’s strategy for growth is that “officially” we still have a 10-storey height limit, but if you want to build over 10 storeys, then make it worth our while by contributing some impressive amenities that all the community can enjoy.

This is, more or less, the status quo. After months of public consultation on the matter, not much has changed. If council wants to be serious about attracting growth and development, it may very well have to revisit the matter. ..again.

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Is It Easy Being Green?

Sunday, November 15, 2009 | Tim Morrison

Is It Easy Being Green? 

– Esquimalt council urged to go greener than provincial targets

Like all municipalities across British Columbia, Esquimalt is now required by the provincial government to have a strict plan for local Green House Gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets, policies, and actions included in our Official Community Plan (OCP) by May 31, 2010.

At a recent Council meeting, our local politicians weighed in on a staff recommendation that Esquimalt adopt the Province’s GHG emissions target of a 33% reduction below 2007 levels by 2020.

Councillor Randall Garrison, however, countered that we are way off the mark when it comes to setting GHG reduction targets. He argues that the staff recommendation of simply adopting the provincial target of -33% by 2020 is far too weak. According to his research on the matter, Garrison sees the 33% figure as a meaningless arbitrary target based on politics rather than science.

“The 2005 Report by the Suzuki Foundation and the Pembina Institute called the Case for Deep Reductions, which was endorsed by the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, set real targets based on science which are now widely accepted as what is necessary,” said Councillor Garrison.  “That report calls for reductions of 80% from 1990 levels by 2050 and 25% from 1990 by 2020.”

“So, since BC GHGs increased 27.5% according to environment Canada from 1990 to 2006, we need a target of -50% by 2020 in Esquimalt to achieve the necessary science based reduction levels,” added Garrison. “I accept that that is an ‘aggressive target’, but I believe it is what is necessary.”

Garrison pointed out that his calculations come from the most reputable authorities on the matter. In urging Council to adopt his recommendation, he stated that these “science based” targets are based on what is necessary to hold the rise in global temperatures at +2 degrees and warned that “anything above that will have catastrophic effects.”

“For us as a municipality it means direct costs in terms of things like responding to increasingly severe and frequent extreme weather events, shoreline erosion, possible flooding as sea levels rise, and all the rest,” predicted Garrison.

Garrison strongly believes that the more aggressive and effective targets can be accomplished.

“If we put an aggressive target in the plan, it will guide our action Plan.  If we are too modest in our target we will perhaps be able to pat ourselves on the back when we reach that target, but we will still suffer the consequences of climate change,” stated Garrison. “Delay both increases costs and the magnitude of the changes you have to make in short periods of time.”

“We in Esquimalt have a chance to be leaders and demonstrate that tough targets are both needed and achievable…but, we have to get started,” concluded Garrison. “I respect my Council colleagues’ concerns about how we measure reductions accurately, but with respect we will have to work out any problems that arise in measuring as we go.”

In the end, Council opted to proceed with beginning the process of setting an overall target for the community to be placed in the OCP and to begin developing an Esquimalt-designed climate change action plan.  It is yet to be determined whether or not the community heeds Garrison’s plea.

Although very supportive of progressive environmental policies and practices, Councillor Lynda Hundleby voted against the motion to proceed, stating that Council “needs more information.” She is especially concerned that there is no clear measurement of being green.

Indeed, Esquimalt’s Sustainability Coordinator Marlene Lagoa admitted that “there are still a lot more questions than answers.”

The ease and extend of Esquimalt being green remains to be seen.

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The Children are Our Future

Thursday, November 05, 2009 | Tim Morrison

The Children Are Our Future

Adult opinions of our community’s teens and youth often conjure up negative perceptions. We think of kids as “trouble-makers” causing vandalism and other street crimes. We see them as obnoxious and a disturbance to the peace of our community. Too many of us would even go so far as to argue our community would be better with less of them, out of sight and out of mind.

As a community, we often do not know what to do with them. We do not fully understand them. Sometimes, however, it is just a simple matter of asking them, of engaging them in a dialogue that will help us overcome the stereotypes and negative views we have towards teens and youth.

Councillor Meagan Brame, a mother of two teenagers with 21 years of frontline experience working with children and youth, has proposed just that.

“Many communities are looking at youth engagement, including children, in their policies and city planning,” says Councillor Brame, who recently attended a province-wide municipal conference where youth engagement was discussed.  “They want to make sure that the voices of children and youth are being heard and respected.”

“One such way of doing this is by developing a policy around it so that it is part of the process and not an afterthought,” adds Brame.  “I heard from communities that their youth were saying that when it comes to city planning, they want places planned with them in mind, not just given whatever is left over.”

Brame has introduced a motion for Esquimalt Council’s consideration that would engage local youth to develop their skills and confidence as community builders.

Brame identifies a number of factors that need to be considered in youth engagement including: encouraging and celebrating youth success rather than focusing on problems; fostering intergenerational relationships such as planning daycares and senior’s housing side by side; organizing a community mentorship program including through jobs and internships; inviting youth to the decision-making table especially on issues close to them such as public transportation and recreation; and focusing on youth problems preventions rather than reactions.

“My mission is to have Esquimalt recognize the importance of youth and knowing that meaningful youth engagement is important for creating social, economic and environmental well-being,” says Brame. “Youth engagement in community issues and governance will help develop the skills and leadership ability of our youth and will help develop ownership in their community.”

The goal is that young people will help rather than hinder the community by leading the discussions on identifying youth community assets, needs, and solutions.

“I want the policy to be a plan for ongoing, meaningful youth participation,” concludes Brame. “Youth need attention, time and energy.  If Esquimalt can have that energy and offer the resources, we are more likely to have healthy young people.”

Esquimalt Council will debate the issue at their next meeting. Perhaps as a trial balloon, input from youth to Council is encouraged on Brame’s proposed youth policy.

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EsquimaltReview.com Celebrates One Month Anniversary

Sunday, November 01, 2009 | Tim Morrison

EsquimaltReview.com Celebrates One Month Anniversary with New Photo Gallery 

Esquimalt Review.com marks its first month milestone as Esquimalt’s first and only online community newspaper.

During its first month of publication, EsquimaltReview.com has received 1,894 visits and has become the source for news, events, and opinion exclusively about Esquimalt. Starting today, EsquimaltReview.com readers can also enjoy a photo gallery section exclusively of Esquimalt.

Check out the new Esquimalt community photo gallery section at: https://esquimaltreview.wordpress.com/esquimalt-photos

Do you have community photos of Esquimalt scenes, news, and events that you would like to share with your Esquimalt neighbours?

Then, EsquimaltReview.com is the place to post your photos.

Email your photos, along with a brief description, to editor@esquimaltreview.com

One of the main reasons that we choose to live in Esquimalt is because of our natural setting of beauty and splendour. We are also a very active community with events taking place all the time. If you happen to photograph something special in Esquimalt, then send your photos to EsquimaltReview.com for publication.

The only rule is that it has to be a photo that takes place in Esquimalt.

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Don’t Let the Flame Go Out!

Monday, October 26, 2009 | Tim Morrison

Don’t Let the Flame Go Out!  

On Friday, October 30th, Esquimalt will have its brush with glory. We will be part of an event that only a very few of the world’s communities get to experience.

Pursuing the 2010 Olympics has certainly had its share of controversy. The decision to host the Games was one that divided us as a province. Love it or hate it, hosting the world in 2010 is now very much a reality. We are doing it. We are moving forward. We have much to be proud of as a nation and as a province. We have much to showcase to the world.

The time has come to rid ourselves of the negativity that some would like to define our Olympic experience.

The time has come to embrace this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, an occasion that will begin right here in our own backyard on October 30th.

There will be something for the whole family to enjoy as Greater Victoria celebrates the launch of the nation-wide Olympic Torch Relay for the 2010 Winter Games.

Esquimalt will be a part of the action. We have a strong and proud spirit, one that will be on display as we partake as an official route community. Everyone from our Mayor to our youngest residents are actively encouraging us all to line the streets in our patriotic Canadian red and white attire.

Celebration stations are planned at Memorial Park and at L’ecole Brodeur School this Friday, October 30th between 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Our municipality’s website has announced that Esquimalt’s celebration stations will feature music, entertainment, face painting and free Olympic Torch Flag souvenirs. We will gather as a community along the torch route and “get a front row seat to a truly inspirational Olympic moment.”

At that defining moment, for the first time in our town’s history, Esquimalt will be joining a special group of global communities that have hosted the running of the Olympic Torch. Most places in the world will never have this opportunity. For those fortunate enough to be a part of the Olympic experience, it only comes once in a lifetime. Let’s not let life pass us by. Instead, let’s seize this chance to cheer as the Olympic flame warms our spirit as a nation, a province, and a community.

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Let’s Flush a Bad Idea Down the Toilet!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009 | Tim Morrison

Let’s Flush a Bad Idea Down the Toilet! 

It’s time for the CRD to flush the MacLaughlin Point sewage treatment plan down the toilet.

Instead, we need to embrace the emerging, innovative, common sense, cost-saving, environmentally-progressive Integrated Resource Recovery alternative.

Think of it this way. If you were asked: do you care about the environment and care about minimizing taxes? You would certainly say “YES” to both.

If you were told that the Capital Regional District is rapidly moving towards a solution to our region’s sewage treatment that is both one of the most expensive and one of the least environmentally progressive, you would be quite upset.

Then, if you further learned that the CRD was about to completely ignore an alternative option that would be the most environmentally responsible and at a significantly cheaper cost, you would likely be very upset.

And, if that wasn’t enough to raise your opposition, what if you were told that the more costly, more environmentally short-sighted option would result in a major sewage plant at McLaughlin Point right here along our treasured Esquimalt waterfront?

Finally, if you knew that that the cheaper and greener option would negate the need for a sewage plant in Esquimalt, but was not getting the full consideration of the CRD that it deserves, then you probably would be quite outraged.

Well, that is exactly what is happening. The CRD refer to this outrageously expensive, narrow-minded policy direction as “Option 1a”.  This rather innocuous moniker, however, is a lot more damaging than its name suggests.

To review, Option 1a means a big sewage waste plant in Esquimalt, a cost to taxpayers of as much as $700 per household per year for a longtime into the future, and an irrevocable lost opportunity to become one of the most environmentally innovative, greenest regions of North America.

The newly emerging alternative would keep sewage plants out of Esquimalt, save CRD taxpayers as much as $100 million, and open the door to integrating sewage, garbage, and compost waste management that could be converted into profitable, green energy through water recovery, heat recovery, recycling, energy savings, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

As Mayor Barb Desjardins stated in a Victoria Times-Colonist editorial, there are already identified sites that “give me a sense of optimism that we can move ahead to better, less costly solutions.” That means that the Integrated Resource Recovery alternative is still a possibility.

This positive approach is fully endorsed by Sewage Treatment Action Group (STAG) Chair Kim Bellefontaine.

Both Bellefontaine and Desjardins urge residents to take action and express their opposition to the  MacLaughlin Point sewage plan (the CRD’s Option 1a) while, at the same time, provide support for fully exploring the new, more logical concepts of Integrated Resource Recovery sites at either Victoria’s Upper Harbour or the University of Victoria.

It’s up to you. Record your feedback electronically with the CRD as soon as possible at:
http://www.wastewatermadeclear.ca/publicinput/feedback.htm
Or, write to:
Wastewater Treatment
625 Fisgard Street, PO Box 1000
Victoria BC V8W 2S6

Esquimalt residents, it’s time to make your voices heard! Our community and our future depend on it.

Read the news story on this topic in the Esquimalt Review News section at:
https://esquimaltreview.wordpress.com/news

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Build It and They Will Come

Thursday, October 08, 200 | Tim Morrison

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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To Grow or not to Grow? That is the Question.

Friday, October 02, 2009 | Tim Morrison

To Grow or not to Grow? That is the Question. 

Esquimalt is a community in transition. We take great pride in our community, but there is clearly a movement afoot to grow into a better place.

With a steady population of 17,000, we are a very comfortable size, not too big and not too small. We are nearby all the services of Victoria’s downtown core without the hassles that come with being a big city. We are a healthy mix of residential, commercial, and industrial development with plenty of open spaces.

We do, however, have our challenges. The need for more policing is often mentioned as a common community grievance. In the past, Esquimalt has been labeled as hard on the eyes and the “wrong side of the tracks” by Victoria’s snootier classes.

In reality, however, we are a beautifully green, peaceful community with thirteen parks encased by scenic waterways and fresh sea air. We are in the midst of an exciting new Village Project Plan, currently under study by Esquimalt City Council, which will further transform the identity and appearance of our community into a place we can all be proud of.

Growth is certainly not without controversy. Some argue that our streets, services and facilities are not equipped to handle a denser population. With more people, there is a possibility of more traffic and more crowded parks and busier community facilities. Developers would argue that they are able to improve our community by contributing some of their profits to a special community amenities fund as a qualifier for their building permits.

For those who have invested in owning their own properties, there is an incentive to see Esquimalt gentrify into more valuable real estate through new development and a better quality of housing stock. For renters, particularly low-income residents, there is pressure to keep Esquimalt affordable by maintaining our community’s traditional lower cost of living.

The issue of property taxes is always paramount. Our local politicians may see development as key to bringing much-needed revenue into our community’s coffers that help prevent the need for steep tax increases. We have great public amenities in Esquimalt and we have to pay for them somehow. Skeptics would counter that new development actually increases property taxes as a result of higher property assessments across the community.

Who is right? Who is wrong? What is the right amount of growth? What is the perfect balance? These are questions that we need to explore as a community.

Esquimalt Town Hall will be hosting two forums open to the public to tackle this topic – Saturday, October 3rd, 2009 and Tuesday, October 6th, 2009. Specifically, this will be an opportunity to discuss what heights and densities you feel would be suitable for those areas of Esquimalt designated for Multi-Unit, High-Rise Residential and Commercial Mixed-Use through an examination of our current Official Community Plan (OCP).

Workshop Dates and Times are as follows: 

Saturday, October 3, 2009
9:30 a.m. until 12:00 noon

Tuesday, October 6, 2009
7:00 p.m. until 9:30 p.m.

More info is available at www.esquimalt.ca

Be sure to check out these meetings and have your community voice heard!

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EsquimaltReview.com is officially launched!

Thursday, October 01, 2009 | Tim Morrison

EsquimaltReview.com Launched 

Welcome to EsquimaltReview.com, Esquimalt’s very own online community newspaper.

Today marks the launch of EsquimaltReview.com

Whether its news or events, there is always something happening in Esquimalt and you can read about it here at EsquimaltReview.com

Tim Morrison, Editor

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