Saanich says the planned refurbishing of an empty public building will not lead to higher taxes or user fees.
This promise appears in a report as council prepares to spend $2.1 million towards the refurbishing of the old Emily Carr library. Saanich municipal hall and its annex would also undergo some minor renovations under the plans that require changes to the current financial plan.
“None of the above amendements impact tax revenue requirements or user fees,” said Valla Tinney, Saanich’s director of finance.
Funding for the project is coming from Saanich’s capital works reserve fund.
Estimated completion date of the project would be the fourth quarter of 2019 and total annual operating costs for the renovated building would be $90,000.
Saanich’s pending approval of the plan marks a major step in the history of the building empty since December 2013, when it closed its doors, and its collection of some 30,000 books moved across Blanshard Street to the new Emily Carr library part of the Uptown complex.
The refurbishment confirms and consolidates the presence of municipal staff in the building, eliminating — at least for now — other options for its use.
Former mayor Richard Atwell earlier this summer surprised the public when he asked council to consider turning the building as a potential housing site for residents of tent city that had existed for several months at Regina Park.
While Atwell’s proposal failed to win a majority, the subject remained a source of controversy during the municipal election campaign, when Atwell and then-councillor, now Mayor Fred Haynes clashed over its use.
Atwell had also pitched the site as a location for modular supportive housing, a proposal Haynes questioned.
The building, located in Saanich’s retail and commercial centre and the location for future housing, services and economic activity, would be unsuitable, said Haynes before the municipal election.
Saanich’s decision to use the building for its own purposes marks a return to previous plans, as Saanich had initially planned to use the two-storey structure as additional office space for Saanich Police. But cost estimated deemed these plans financially unsustainable, and competed against other options.
Speaking to Saanich News in September 2017, before the emergence of the homeless camp in Regina, Atwell said the best outcome would be for the building to be part of larger mixed-residential development. The area, including the nearby Munro Centre which includes the Saanich News is zoned C-5 Civic Core and allows maximum height of 37 metres.
Saanich’s engineering services will work out of the building, once crews have completed renovations.