Victoria’s lengthy process around replacing Crystal Pool and Fitness Centre could be coming back with residents possibly getting a vote this time around.
City staff will begin crafting a report on the implications of reviving the planning process for a new aquatic and recreation centre, thanks to a successful motion by Couns. Jeremy Caradonna and Stephen Hammond on Feb. 9.
That report will look into organizing a city referendum, which would ask a binding question on the public’s willingness to borrow the capital funds needed for a new facility. A non-binding portion of the referendum would ask where the centre should go and what features it should include.
The now-dormant Crystal Pool replacement process was spurred by council in 2017, directing staff to develop a plan for a new facility costing almost $70 million. The current council says that cost today would be closer to $100 million, though staff said a financial analysis would be done before a figure is brought to the public, should a referendum go forward.
Originally built in 1971, the current centre’s infrastructure has led to a number of service and accessibility issues. As councillors were discussing the motion on Thursday, the pool was closed due to a mechanical issue that was affecting water quality.
“The original effort to knock down the current facility and build a new one was not completed and as a result, Victoria has been left … with an outdated, finicky and inaccessible facility, as well as a challenging political deadlock,” Caradonna said.
“Victoria needs a safe, accessible, vibrant, climate-smart pool and rec facility and Victorians are looking to us for leadership to get the building built once and for all.”
Hammond said it’s vital to have a facility people can count on as the councillors noted a referendum would give the city a clear mandate on how to move forward with the replacement project.
Staff will also report back on potentially identifying two to four site options for a new centre that would be listed in the referendum. The approved motion calls for the community-wide vote to be contingent on: the possible sites being in or adjacent to the North Park neighbourhood; voters getting a high-level view of the expected costs, features and impacts: that climate, equity and accessibility lenses be applied; and that options include community amenities and aquatic features.
Staff are also tasked with looking into government funding that could help offset the capital costs.
Thomas Soulliere, director of parks, recreation and facilities, said on Thursday that the potential replacement would be one of the most significant infrastructure projects ever tackled by the city.
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