Victoria City Council directed city staff to keep planning for the new Crystal Pool and Wellness Centre to be at the originally-proposed site at the the south-west corner of Central Park.
This soft decision came after a three-hour discussion at a committee-of-the-whole meeting on Thursday, but it left alternative site options open.
Three other sites have been listed for consideration, but a lengthy report put forward by the North Park Neighbourhood Association argued that the parking lot next to the Victoria Curling Club, behind the Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena, would be the most ideal location for the new pool.
Despite the fact that the city owns the property, the Arena’s operators, RG Properties Ltd., holds a long-term lease on the area, and no discussion about altering this lease has happened.
Director of parks, recreation and facilities, Thomas Soulliere, argued that reassessing a completely new site for the project would bring the planning team back a few steps in the design component of the plan, as most of the work for the current site was completed in 2017.
He added that leaving the pool as is for the next 10 years would cost at minimum $13 million, but that this would not factor “the quality of the experience at all,” and that it simply meant the building would stand and doors would still open.
Delaying or moving the site would also add significant costs to the project, including over $200,000 for the analysis , which would go hand-in-hand with an eight to 10 month delay. This would forfeit the city the first year of federal-provincial funding for the project, as well as potentially lose $6 million in Gas Tax Funds and $1 million from the Canadian Tire Jumpstart Program.
Council voted seven-to-two in favor of staff continuing with the current idea, but also directed them to reach out to RG properties to see if it would be interested in hosting the new pool site.
Coun. Ben Isitt was vocal in his opposition of this decision, saying more information was needed.
“It’s completely premature to consider building in the south-west corner of the park before we’ve had time to speak with the operator at the arena,” he said.
Coun. Jeremy Loveday, Coun. Sarah Potts and Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe all voted in favour of the south-west site, but also expressed a preference for the arena location. They added that their votes were powered by their concerns to further delay pool planning should RG properties decline any involvement in the project.
Council also agreed to explore options at another of the proposed pool sites, at the parking lot across from the Royal Athletic Park, to see if it could be used for social housing, a community welcome centre, childcare options and parking.
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