Trustees with School District 63 (Saanich) have decided not to proceed with a land sale process with the Town of Sidney, effectively putting the municipality back to square one in finding a place for a proposed community safety building.
In a media release this morning, the Town stated it accepts the board of trustees’ quick decision during last night’s board meeting. The Town had sought to buy approximately three acres of school district property next to Sidney Elementary School. They are proposing a three storey building to house a new fire hall, ambulance station and other community emergency services. It would replace the existing fire hall, which does not meet current earthquake survival standards and is being outgrown by an expanding fire department.
“Board chair (Victoria) Martin called me at 10:30 last night to let me know of their decision,” said Mayor Steve Price in an interview. “We will now have to find a new site.”
Price said Martin told him the board sided with concerns raised by their education directions committee in late February. That committee recommended the board not continue with the land sale process, citing conflicts with having a fire station next to a school. Price, who attended that committee meeting, said they felt the proposal was not compatible nor in the best interests of the kids.
“We don’t have any problem with their decision,” Price said. “We really appreciate they made their decision and didn’t drag it out.”
Price added the school district’s finance committee had also sought the highest and best use and zoning for the site, which could have raised its price to an estimated $3.5 million. He said that would have played a role in the Town’s decision, even if the board had agreed to proceed with the land sale process.
The site rejection leaves the Town of Sidney with six or seven alternate locations for the community safety building to consider. The current location of the fire hall has been ruled out, he said, noting that it’s too small for their current community safety building plans — as well as being downtown in a more congested area.
Other sites considered for the project are: the current downtown fire hall location and adjacent parking lot; Victoria Airport Authority land across the Pat Bay Highway (next to Beacon Avenue); 2114 Beacon Ave. West (west of the highway and adjacent to the airport property); 2180 Beacon Ave. West (similar to previous); Iroquois Park; the south Memorial Park Society lands and skateboard park, and; Ministry of Transportation lands (south of the Town’s public works yard).
Price said council will be meeting in-camera on Monday, March 9 to begin discussions on alternative locations. He said they’re going in-camera to ensure land prices or lease rates aren’t affected while any negotiations are going on.
He added the Town is still prepared to engage the public on any new site selected. The school district, as a condition of the consideration of the Sidney Elementary property, had demanded the municipality consult with the community.
“Once we find another site,” Price confirmed, “yes, we will do that.”