A screenshot from the July 5, 2021, Parksville city council meeting showing Christie Lucas, an environmental scientist with WSP Canada, right, and Parksville city council. (Submitted photo)

A screenshot from the July 5, 2021, Parksville city council meeting showing Christie Lucas, an environmental scientist with WSP Canada, right, and Parksville city council. (Submitted photo)

Parksville city council pauses development on planned aquatic and recreation centre

‘Potential valuable ecological communities’ identified at the site

Development on Parksville’s proposed Aquatic and Recreation Centre is on hold until a full environmental overview assessment is complete.

Christie Lucas, an environmental scientist with WSP Canada, the firm tasked with conducting the environmental assessment, went before Parksville city council on Monday, July 5.

Lucas said a land analysis report, along with a site condition assessment, was already done on the proposed Despard Avenue site.

“We have been out to the site and based on initial site visits and discussions with city staff, WSP has identified potential valuable ecological communities at the site that may present constraints to the purposed development,” she said.

According to Lucas, WSP recommends reports on these preliminary findings be completed before going forward with the remaining assessments so they can present the site constraints and whether mitigation measures are ecologically or financially feasible.

She said the reports, which should be available within several weeks, will assist the city in determining whether to move forward with additional assessments, or to choose a new location altogether.

READ MORE: City of Parksville provides details on proposed aquatic and recreation centre project

In a motion, Mayor Ed Mayne recommended that WPS finalize their current ecological assessment of the Despard site; no further studies and relations to the development of the site be initiated; WSP be retained as a technical consultant; the balance of the budget be reallocated to the land analysis and site condition assessments for alternative potential sites; and city staff be directed to move forward with planned public engagement to start later in July.

“When we took on this project, we said that we would look at it and if there was something that comes out of the woodwork, we would stop and re-evaluate at that point in time,” said Mayne. “Right now we’re not 100 per cent sure, one way or another. But until we are, we’re better off to put this on hold until we get the final report.”

A motion from Mayne was carried with no opposition.

A release by the manager of communications for the city, Deb Tardiff, read that the Despard site was preferred because of its size, its close proximity to existing services and that it would not incur additional costs since the land was already owned by the city.

“With COVID restrictions easing, a robust public engagement effort will begin to discuss the community’s input on the size, location and features for a pool and multiplex. We look forward to hearing from residents throughout the summer and fall,” read the release.

Parksville residents are encouraged to participate in the public engagement process and can email HDR@parksville.ca to be added to the mailing list.

mandy.moraes@pqbnews.com

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