MAC Renovations owner Ed McDonald

Family inks home deal days before sewage site announcement

Neighbours, businesses near CRD land purchase in Esquimalt worry about property values and quality of life

When Justine and Walter Ash moved into their Vic West home two weeks ago, they thought they’d found the perfect location.

The Hereward Road property, on the border between Victoria and Esquimalt, offered easy access to the E&N Rail Trail, a big yard and ample space to raise their first child, due in May.

Before they put down an offer, the couple decided to check with the Capital Regional District about possible construction in the area.

“We knew about the sewage pipeline being built out from McLoughlin Point to Hartland (landfill in Saanich), so we wanted to know if the street would be torn up,” Justine said. “It never occurred to us they would be building a shit factory across the street.”

The CRD announced last week it had purchased a $17-million industrial property on Viewfield Road, just metres from the Ashes’ home, as a possible site for a sewage processing facility.

If the Viewfield site were to be used, sewage would be pumped about two kilometres from the wastewater treatment plant at McLoughlin Point to be harvested for energy and resources.

Such a scenario would save $6 to $7 million over building a biosolids plant at Hartland – which would require 18 km of pipes – said Denise Blackwell, chair of the CRD’s core area wastewater management committee.

The Ashes, however, feel they were misled. Walter contacted the CRD before they bought their home and requested information on pipelines, solid waste trucking routes and publicly available maps.

“As a prospective first-time home buyer, I want to be aware of the treatment plans so that I can make an informed decision,” he wrote in a Jan. 31 email to Heather Raines, executive assistant with the CRD’s core area wastewater treatment program.

“I was wondering if you could comment on the areas of the city (Esquimalt and Vic West, in particular) that may be impacted by the CRD water treatment plans.”

In her Feb. 4 response, Raines provided a link to a 2010 environmental impact study that states: “Sludge will be processed at a biosolids facility built at the Hartland North site.” Raines wrote the construction schedule in the study had changed, but “the other information is still applicable.”

The next day, Walter and Justine put down an offer on their new home.

CRD spokesman Andy Orr sympathized with the couple, but said government land deals tend to be done in secret to avoid price speculation.

“I don’t think we could have released the information any sooner than we did,” he said.

Ed McDonald owns MAC Renovations on Viewfield Road, directly across the street from the proposed biosolids site. While truck traffic is already heavy in the area, McDonald worries about the likelihood of falling property values.

“The CRD’s process is really upsetting,” he said. “They never miss collecting a tax bill from us.”

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins said the inclusion of a biosolids plant would disproportionately burden the township with all of the major components of the Capital Region’s $783-million secondary sewage treatment project.

“The process to purchase this site prior to any public knowledge or input denies the public their rights, and it denies the municipality their rights that this was all done in-camera,” she said. “It’s a disrespect to the population.”

The CRD says it undertook an exhaustive process to find alternative properties for the biosolids centre, but in the end, only Viewfield Road and Hartland were deemed viable for social, environmental and economic reasons.

“We looked at some places in the Inner Harbour, we looked at moving the public works yard in the City of Victoria … there was always someone who didn’t want to sell,” Blackwell said.

A deal in View Royal also looked promising, but the seller came back with unreasonable demands, she said.

“But we haven’t made a decision. Both sites have their good and their bad sides to them. That’s why we’re going to public consultation.”

Esquimalt’s director of development, Bill Brown, said the township will lose at least $160,000 in property taxes next year from the loss of the 4.2-acre Viewfield site.

“It’s approximately nine per cent of our industrial park, and that doesn’t account for the large buffer that will probably be around the plant, and depreciating home values,” he said.

A 2009 CRD inventory assessment estimates more than 340 acres of new industrial land will be required in Greater Victoria over the next 30 years, with the greatest demand in the core municipalities.

“It’s strange the CRD would want to take industrial land out of commission, when their own report identifies a need for it,” Brown said.

Justine Ash has already contacted most of her municipal and provincial representatives and plans to make her opinion known as the discussion unfolds.

“While I’m willing to do whatever I can to oppose it, my hope is ultimately the plan won’t go through because it’s just so asinine,” she said. “This was supposed to be the most exciting week of our lives.”

dpalmer@vicnews.com

*Edit: An older version of this story wrongly stated the Viewfield site would save $6 to 7 million annually in operating costs.

Just Posted

Premier John Horgan announces improvements to Highway 14

Construction on the $10 million project is set to begin immediately

Upgrades to Millstream overpass to begin Feb. 1

Project includes addition of left hand turn lane onto highway to Victoria

Victoria Grizzlies look to continue hot steak

Team hits the road this weekend before Family Fun Night

Man hospitalized after early morning Sooke Road crash

Police say injuries are non life-threatening

Monster trucks invade Victoria

Traxxas Monster Truck Tour stops at Save-On Foods Memorial Centre this weekend

Ice-cream-eating bear draws controversy

An Alberta Wildlife Park posted a video this week of one of their bears going through a Dairy Queen drive-through

LETTER: The sewage spiral continues in Greater Victoria

My left brain has been trying to digest the news and comments… Continue reading

Fernie, RCMP go to court over city log books in fatal ammonia leak probe

Log books center stage in clashing of investigations between the city and RCMP

Renowned Comox Valley sasquatch researcher passes away

A renowned biologist and leading Canadian sasquatch researcher who called the Comox… Continue reading

B.C.’s biggest pot plant planned for Oliver

Co-founder Tony Holler said the 700,000 sq. ft. facility would produce 100,000 kg of pot per year

Train derails in Northwest B.C.

CN reports no injuries or dangerous goods involved after coal train derailment.

Double-doubles and demonstrations: Employees rally outside Tim Hortons

Protests held in response to Ontario franchise owners cutting employee benefits and breaks

Las Vegas shooter acted alone, exact motive still undetermined: Sheriff

Stephen Paddock was behind the gunfire that killed 58 people including two Canadians

Most Read