Victoria council directed staff to report back on all existing potential sites for the new Crystal Pool facility before any more decisions are made moving forward.
In a committee of the whole meeting on Thursday, staff presented a report at the request of council laying out how much a feasibility study would cost for the new pool, landing on a grand total of $725,000.
Council rejected the idea, opting instead to have staff gather all existing information about previously-examined sites, with a special emphasis on the vacant Royal Athletic Park parking lot at 940 Caledonia Ave.
One of the previously-explored locations, the field next to Central Middle School, is off the table since it doesn’t meet the geographic requirements of being in the Hillside/North Park neighbourhoods.
Council hopes to see original designs of the new pool, which had initially been placed in the south-west corner of Central Park, examined at these alternative locations.
Plans were delayed last year when council heard from the North Park Neighbourhood Association (NPNA) asking for more greenspace and the use of an equity lens when examining community needs.
In exploring alternative options, council realized that the requested amenities, including the inclusive pool, affordable housing, childcare space and a community centre could not all come together in the same space.
“There are other parcels of land where the city can pursue those opportunities for non-recreational amenities,” said Coun. Ben Isitt.
“We can have a clear division of labour with respect to various amenities. We can delegate parks and recreation staff to pursue the recreation amenities as originally contemplated in the project deign and direct our real estate staff and our planning staff and others to pursue the non-recreational amenities that council has identified.”
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps agreed that dividing the goals would help move the project forward.
“Just because in June 2019 we said all of those things must be part of one project, I don’t think we need to hold fast to that,” Helps said, adding that continuing to drag out discussions puts a great risk to the city of having no pool facility at all.
City staff had told council that keeping the present and ailing pool running for 10 more years would cost upwards of $13 million.
“There is a great deal of risk and we have a responsibility,” Helps said. “It is our responsibility, not the staff, the public or groups advocating for or against one position. It’s up to us to build a new swimming pool before the old one has to be closed down or before we dump a tonne of money into the old one.”
Staff are set to provide the compiled site selection reports, including previously unreleased parking analysis studies, to council on Feb. 6.
Council determined that due to timeline restrictions, any upcoming pool referendum would not be included in the upcoming by-election in the spring.