Mayor Barbara Desjardins
Monday, November 4, 2019
Council Chambers, Esquimalt Municipal Hall
One year ago this council met on our inaugural meeting of the term 2018-2022. It has been an incredibly busy year, and a productive one. As we see transformation of the community happening outside, know that transformation is also happening inside. We are continuously guided by our vision: “The Township of Esquimalt is a vibrant, distinct and diverse community for people to discover and belong”.
Through our strategic priorities we are tackling significant issues for our community: climate change, health service provision, deer management, infrastructure management and housing. We are taking an opportunity as well to move forward on economic development, and relationships with stakeholders and neighbours.
Top of mind in 2019 Council declared a climate emergency this year. We endorsed a Terms of Reference for the Climate Action Planning Project on October 22. The plan includes a goal for Esquimalt to become a 100% renewable energy community by 2050.
We’ll deliver a climate emergency report early in the new year with recommendations for immediate steps to cut GHG emissions in municipal operations.
In the longer term the project will include a combined community mitigation and adaptation plan as well as assess our municipal buildings for potential energy savings. Staff will be preparing a request for proposals for consulting assistance with this project before the end of the year.
Another significant challenge in our community is the lack of medical facilities and services. Council is working to facilitate new health facilities in Esquimalt. As part of that effort, this past spring we welcomed input from Dr. Eileen Pepler’s needs assessment report and held a town hall so that the community could voice their concerns.
Next year, we will continue the conversations on this challenge both within the community and with medical providers as we come back to review recommendations made in Dr. Pepler’s report.
Also on the health front Esquimalt will have completed our third annual deer count this fall. This information along with the steps we have taken over the past 4 years allows us to move forward on creating an informed management plan. Stay tuned as Mayors of the Core municipalities are working to get greater commitment on this file by the Province while we also monitor the success of Oak Bay’s contraception project.
As one of the oldest communities of the region, Esquimalt must be vigilant in assessing, maintaining and renewing its infrastructure. Our founders in incorporation and those who stewarded the Township throughout the following 107 years have made this a priority. We are continuing to do so through dedicated asset management planning.
For example, we’ve completed our modelling of storm and sanitary collection systems so that we can track the impact of leaky and cracked pipes on our systems. This will help create an inflow and infiltration masterplan to assist in managing this challenge effectively. In doing so, I’m pleased to say that we continue to be leaders on this file in the region.
Staff and Council continue to see significant interest by developers in our community. We have on the books 1,388 units of housing within process or approved. This includes everything from rental to condo, townhouse to infill single family homes, seniors housing, below market and market housing. Esquimalt Town Centre will be occupied next year with 101 units of housing, commercial and office space. Over the next years of our term Esquimalt will be welcoming many new businesses and residents to our community.
Our downtown revitalization tax exemption program is seeing successful applicants with more businesses applying for the new year. A plan and action toward economic development is important and we are working with South Island Prosperity Partnership to create an economic development assessment and business investment roadmap for Esquimalt. We look to a report on this in April 2020.
The township is continuing our positive relationship with the Esquimalt Chamber of Commerce working collaboratively on promoting Esquimalt businesses opportunities, sharing information and building Esquimalt’s brand outside the community.
This past year we narrowed down the scope of potential projects using McLoughlin amenity funding for waterfront parks based on community input. We have asked staff to bring forward more detail on a multipurpose building and fenced in dog park in Gorge Park, as well as a boardwalk for Saxe Point Park.
Looking ahead Council will continue community conversations around our public safety building and downtown recreation facilities to get these to a similar focus.
I wanted to provide the community with this update and to set the stage for year 2 of this Council’s mandate. Because of the 4-year term there is the opportunity for members of Council to participate on their committees in a more fulsome way by extending their appointments through this year as well. This was a suggestion but supported by all of Council. As a result, there are few changes to appointments this year and our committees can keep the momentum of their good work going.
On behalf of Esquimalt Council I wish to thank staff and the community for the roles you are playing in the future of Esquimalt. We all do this work together.