The Victoria Curling Club is interested in being included in the new Crystal Pool Facility after their lease stopped being renewed.
The 66-year-old building is owned by the club, but sits on City land as part of a unique, grandfathered deal put in place after the Korean War. At the time, veterans wanted recreational facilities, but municipalities were short on cash. A deal ensued that said if citizens could build their own facilities and city could reap the recreational benefits, the building owners wouldn’t have to pay city taxes. For the Curling Club, the deal is still in place, but a problem arose two years ago when the city stopped renewing their lease.
“They said they wanted to conduct a strategic land holding plan, so no more leases for the time,” said Neil Campbell, president of the Victoria Curling Club. “We’ve been here 65-plus years, we need some certainty to be able to apply for grants.”
Campbell said the city has been supportive of their club and have kept their leasing on a month-by-month basis but that more certainty could be required to attain funding for future plans.
One solution was brought forward by the North Park Neighbourhood Association (NPNA), which suggested that the Curling Club and its surrounding parking lot be considered as the site for the new Crystal Pool and Wellness Centre.
“No one has asked us our opinion except NPNA,” Campbell said. “We’d be supportive, we could use a new multi-purpose facility.”
The NPNA and the Downtown Victoria Business Association prepared a comprehensive report for Thursday’s council meeting that explains why the curling club is an ideal site.
“This would offer uninterrupted pool use, no disruption of pool space, and the ability to put parking in there,” said Sean Kahil, board member of the NPNA. “The other thing is the City has identified this area as being park deficient … Building a new facility outside of Central Park means we can reclaim new park land.”
The NPNA and the DVBA brought forward the report after pointing out a lack in community consultation for the project.
In a blog post on Sept. 18, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps admitted consultation had been overlooked.
“What we failed to do, is to look from the perspective of the community members that live around the pool and see that the pool is also in the park,” Helps said. “It’s their neighbourhood park. Being singularly focused on the pool meant that we didn’t do engagement on the park.”
On Oct. 4 council directed city staff to work with the neighborhood associations in this plan, but Kahil said so far they haven’t had any co-operation.
“The consultation process was all about the building, they’ve gone to the details of picking out the tiles, but any public concern about outside the building, like the structure, was excluded,” he said.
It would cost the city more than $200,000 to conduct a thorough analysis comparing the sites and would risk the first year of a multi-million dollar federal-provincial grant, but Kahil said it was worth the cost.
“The $200,000, when we’re looking at $70 million-plus building to make sure we’ve done it correctly is not really significant,” Kahil argued. “The huge risk is not by putting it off for a year, but by rushing into it when we’re not prepared.”
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