Victoria could see a referendum on replacing the city’s only public swimming pool
Two councilors from the City of Victoria say it’s time to start talking again about replacing Crystal Pool.
The aging facility — the city’s only public swimming pool — is not fully accessible, requires a seismic upgrade, has rising maintenance costs, and contributes nearly half of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions.
But previous councils couldn’t agree on where exactly a new pool would go and what exact amenities the complex would include.
Jeremy Caradonna and Stephen Hammond say opening the options to the public would help.
They tabled a motion this week to ask staff to come up with a short list of replacement options and then schedule a referendum.
It received unanimous support from a committee throughout Thursday’s session.
The referendum would ask the public two questions: one mandatory and one non-binding.
The binding question, as required by state law, would ask for permission to borrow the money needed to complete the project. The non-binding question would ask residents which of the proposed plans they prefer.
“I like the idea of having the input,” Hammond said. “If we know where people want it, I think it’s going to be a lot easier to shop for.”
While it was generally agreed that the pool would remain in the North Park neighborhood, some would like it in its existing location in a city park, while others would like to build it in a city-owned lot at 940 Caledonia Ave, a few blocks away.
The motion proposes that the replacement options are all located in or adjacent to North Park, include a pool and recreational facilities, and provide residents with an understanding of the costs, features and impact of each option.
It also asks that staff be mindful that options are accessible and climate-friendly.
Caradonna understands people might be frustrated that he would like staff to look at the project again, but he says previous studies are now too old to be considered relevant.
He hopes that new ideas and a vote will finally lead to a new pool being built.
“The whole idea here is to move forward as a community so we don’t get stuck in the process again like we did last time,” he said.
Both Caradonna and Hammond agree the project is huge – their proposal says it will likely cost over $100 million, “the most expensive capital project in the history of the City of Victoria”.
But they fear that without a plan, the current pool will have to be closed before a replacement is built. It already occasionally closes for maintenance issues – including this week.