As Victoria council gets set to further debate the future of the Crystal Pool redevelopment on Thursday, mayor Lisa Helps is proposing what she calls a middle ground and path forward for the project.
In a document dated November 14th, Helps says her proposal will keep the facility open during construction and give residents the opportunity to weigh-in on two possible sites through a referendum to be held no later than the second quarter of 2020.
“There are risks to proceeding with the current project as proposed as well as risks of changing course at this time,” she writes.
The mayor says City staff have already spent a great deal of time working on the current proposal to build a new facility beside the existing one in Central Park with an approved budget of $69.4 million.
She adds that the city has received $7 million in grants toward the project, and has been working with seniors levels of government in anticipation of federal-provincial infrastructure funding, applications are due January 23, 2019.
The risks to changing course now are clear.
“We could lose the $7 million in funding currently proposed for this project,” she writes.
“We will also miss the first intake of infrastructure funding from the federal and provincial governments and it is not clear when a second intake would be or how much funding would be allocated for social infrastructure.”
She adds that construction costs will continue to climb every month the project is delayed.
But there is opposition to the proposed Central Park site, in particular from the North Park Neighbourhood and Downtown Residents Associations.
A document submitted on November 7th states, “The Downtown Residents Association and North Park Neighbourhood Association wish to state unequivocally that our preferred site is 1952 Quadra Street – aka the Memorial Arena (Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre) parking lot and Victoria Curling Club.”
“The Arena site would also allow for more and much-needed community services and facilities, including housing, childcare, underground parking, and seniors and welcome centres.”
Helps writes that the key risk of sticking with the current plan is the lack of social license in then neighbourhood. It also brings a financial risk should the City not be able to secure enough funding from the provincial and federal governments.
“If we don’t secure enough funding from senior levels of government, we would need to hold a referendum,” Helps writes.
“We could risk some neighbourhood residents or the Neighbourhood Association organizing for the “no” side.”
Helps is proposing that City staff complete work on planning for the original Central Park site, but also report back with a scope and budget for building the facility on the arena parking lot site.
The mayor will ask that a referendum be held no later than the second quarter of 2020 with voters presented with two questions:
Do they support going ahead with the Crystal Pool redevelopment project? and, if so, which site do they prefer (the estimated cost of both options would be included).
Helps says the City would seek extensions from those who’ve already provided funding, and would also work with senior levels of government to see what options are available for funding for the two proposed sites.