By Doreen Marion Gee

When it comes to the Clover Point secondary sewage treatment facility proposal, residents want to feel that their voices are being heard and respected by a local government that is truly “for the people.” From my conversations with Mayor, Lisa Helps, it seems that she is listening.

Clover Point is a strikingly beautiful location, with vast cobalt blue seascapes, green grassy fields and the sunny ambiance of a natural raw paradise. With long walkways overlooking ocean and sky, it is a tourist magnet and a favourite recreational area for local walkers and adventurers. Kite-fliers, paragliders and windsurfers revel in the beauty of aqua skies, salty sea sprays and an emerald-green park-like field and cliff. It is reasonable to conclude that this one-of-a-kind area is a local treasure and any decisions about its future should be very carefully considered.

The latest development in the ongoing secondary sewage treatment saga, according to the CRD website, is a CRD proposal for “a two-plant system, with an underground treatment plant at Clover Point in Victoria and a plant at McLoughlin Point or Macaulay Plains in Esquimalt.” Mayor Lisa Helps is adamant that this new two-site sewage treatment proposal is “not a done deal.” Public engagement and consultations with Fairfield residents in the decision-making process are planned over the next few months. In a 'Committee of the Whole' meeting in Victoria chambers April 7, a new report was brought forward by Jonathan Tinney, Director, Sustainable Planning and Community Development - “Guiding Policy for Waste water Treatment Facilities.” It recommends that Council direct staff to “undertake a comprehensive public engagement process to support development of guiding policy for Council consideration and adoption related to waste water treatment facilities as a precursor to a future land use application for such a facility within the City of Victoria.”

Photo by Bob Tuomi

The report refers to Clover Point as an “opportunity” to use this planning policy framework in the decision-making process. The report's contents should interest residents whose lives may be impacted if this Clover Point proposal goes ahead: “The policy development process will also begin a longer engagement process founded on the principles and core values of the International Association for Public Participation, including the core value that those affected by the decision have a right to be involved in the decision-making and that public participation promotes sustainable decisions. Engagement will be inclusive and transparent and provide multiple ways for the community to influence this important decision.”

In our interviews, Mayor Helps talked openly and candidly about the Clover Point proposal: “From a technical perspective there are some benefits of the Clover Point site with its existing sewage outfall and the location of some current waste water treatment infrastructure. It also offered some constraints due to the limited land available there for siting of necessary facilities.” She recognizes that there are many concerns about the plan. In the initial public consultations about a Clover Point site, “a number of stakeholders made clear their concerns in regards to this issue. Owners of businesses along Cook Street Village, in particular, expressed strong opposition to the potential construction impacts through the Village and the impact this would have on their businesses.”

The Mayor appears committed to giving the public a say and a voice in this very important decision about Clover Point: "There will be lots of opportunities for citizens to engage in community consultations and we will take their feedback very seriously in any decisions made about Clover Point. Over the next several months, City and CRD staff along with elected officials will be reaching out to listen to your thoughts, concerns and hopes for this proposed project.” That process will involve community meetings, workshops and other engagement opportunities.

The Clover Point site is presently zoned as “Single Family Dwelling.” Mayor Helps: “A rezoning application will need to be made by the CRD for the City to approve this use, at this site. Additional opportunities for public feedback and comment will also occur as part of this land-use approval process. A decision to rezone land is made after a public hearing at a Council meeting. There will be many meetings over the next few months to give input before even getting to a rezoning hearing.” 

Wayne Hollohan, Chair of the Fairfield Gonzales Community Association Land Use Committee, has serious reservations about the proposed site of Clover Point for one of the treatment plants. In his letter to the Council of March 14, 2016, he writes, “I found council's discussion around this CRD proposal deeply concerning. It wasn't whether Clover Point was the best location for the sewage treatment plant or that it would cost at least $250 million more, but whether people would still have access to Clover Point during construction and whether or not it wouldn't protrude above Dallas Road level when it was completed. Were we to have a preliminary informational meeting of what might happen or what is going to happen?”

A local group called Opposition to Clover Point Sewage Treatment Plant has created a petition where they are inviting Victoria residents to “say NO to a major sewage plant at Clover Point Park.” Judy Loukras of this group sent me a Facebook message stating that they “are against any additional sewage project at this site as it is within 25 feet of a dense residential area. The existing pump station is already smelly at times and we have lived with this for many years. Also, many years of construction in one of the busiest parks in the CRD would be very unfortunate for the 1000's of weekly users.”

Mayor Lisa Helps promises to “consider all the feedback that we receive from residents on this topic and make a decision accordingly."