Finding funding for a new Crystal Pool facility will require a public referendum, says Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.
In order to complete the project, which in 2017 carried a $69.4 million price tag, the City will now need to borrow funding in the form of a long-term loan. According to provincial bylaws, in order to do so the city needs to seek approval from the public realm, though the exact dollar amount has not been calculated.
“The pool is a priority for council,” Helps said. “The reality is we will need to go to referendum to ask for permission to borrow the money to build the pool. Therefore we have to take the time to get a project together that at least 51 per cent of eligible voters – and hopefully more – will support.”
Alternatively, the City could pursue an “alternate approval process” in which 10 per cent or more of the eligible electors must sign and submit a response form in opposition to the decision, a move which Helps said could trigger the need for a referendum anyway.
Previously, the City had more guaranteed funding for a new Crystal Pool facility, including a $6 million gas tax fund, a $1 million grant from the Canadian Tire Jump Start program, and funding from a a 10-year federal-provincial grant that was ready to cover up to 72 per cent of the project.
However, plans for a new pool at the south west corner of Central Park were scrapped after some residents complained of a loss of greenspace in the park. Consequently, the City explored alternative site locations at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Arena parking lot, the Royal Athletic Park and with the Greater Victoria School Board without any luck.
In October, City staff asked council for some direction in where to go as they started again from square one.
The indecision has made many residents upset, including council candidate Karmen McNamara, who brought forward a 900-signature petition to council on Thursday asking for immediate action from the city, and action from local ultra-marathon swimmer Susan Simmons, who invited council to take a dip with her in the ocean on Dec. 1 to feel how residents will feel when no pool is available.
Helps said she encourages public response.
“It’s always great to see citizens advancing the causes they are passionate about in creative ways.”
A plan will need to be in place for a new pool and its location before a referendum can be put forward, so it is unlikely to be held in the near future.
Details have not been released on where the funding would be borrowed from.