The high costs of a proposed public plaza in Lantzville’s village core has some district councillors concerned.
Lantzville staff are currently in the process of applying for a $200,000 grant from the Island Coastal Economic Trust in order to construct a public plaza made out of brick and other streetscape improvements along Lantzville Road, between Calliet and Tweedhope roads.
While the district has submitted a streetscape plan that, if realized, would transform Lantzville Road, ICET has requested staff to designate one portion of the streetscape plan as a priority, according to a staff report. As a result, district staff have recommended designating the public plaza project as a priority and are seeking council’s approval.
The plaza project is estimated to cost $400,000 while the rest of the projects listed in the streetscape plan would cost an additional $2.85 million, according to the report, which notes that plaza would likely cost around $275,000 but the $400,000 figure cited by staff includes $125,000 as a contingency.
Although not part of the plaza, one of the projects included in the district’s $2.85 million streetscape plan is upgrading the Lantzville Road and Dickenson Road intersection. If realized, the intersection would be raised, constructed out of brick and feature the District of Lantzville’s logo in the middle.
During a Nov. 18 committee of the whole meeting, Lantzville councillors discussed staff’s request to designate the plaza as a priority as well as the intersection upgrades.
Lantzville Mayor Mark Swain said with the “looming” tax increases coming to residents, he doesn’t believe now is the time to be “tinkering around” with a plaza, particularly given its high cost.
“I think residents probably want to see their money best spent elsewhere, which would be improving pedestrian safety on the other side of the road,” Swain said, adding that he’d be supportive of a plaza if a developer or community group wants to raise or contribute money for one.
Coun. Karen Proctor said perhaps the focus should be on the intersection. She said she finds the intersection “kind of scary” and suggested that perhaps those improvements only would be a better use of grant funds.
“In terms of safety, that raised intersection could be a good place to start,” she said, adding that it would create “a feel” for what Lantzville is planning to do long-term.
Coun. Jamie Wilson said he believes the district and council “are still putting the cart before the horse a little bit” with the proposed plaza, adding that the focus should be on other infrastructure projects.
“We don’t have any water pipes in the ground up to the Winds; I think that we need to just maybe put the brakes on something like this and maybe look at this when we address our strategic priorities,” he said.
Coun. Will Geselbracht said revitalizing the village core is a priority for council and they need to start somewhere.
“Whether it is getting started with this intersection, with some sidewalk, let’s get started,” he said. “The issue of the Winds is a separate issue.”
Geselbracht also noted that a citizens’ group in Lantzville is forming to help fundraise for the public plaza project.
“The idea of volunteers is a worthy objective in this town…” he said. “It’s what built Lantzville in the past.”
Coun. Ian Savage said village core revitalization was a priority back in the 1990s and is council’s top priority now. However, he said the key question is what is the best way to begin on revitalization and doesn’t believe a plaza is the smartest approach given its high cost.
“That’s a very expensive amount for the area and I think this can be revisited,” he said, later adding that he would prefer to see the district put in trees along Lantzville Road first because they pack the “biggest punch for the dollar” and will make the biggest change.
Savage said the fact that a citizens group is forming to raise money for the project is a good thing and something he would be interested in helping out with in some capacity. He said the notion that volunteer labour results in lower quality is not always true.
“Just because it is volunteer, doesn’t mean it is a bunch of hippies with broken rakes,” Savage said. “It can be highly qualified people.”
Council indicated it would discuss the matter further at a committee of the whole meeting Dec. 9.
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