Town asks for Sidney Gateway impact evaluation

Independent consultant Urbanics will review potential impact of proposed retail site on existing downtown business.

The Town of Sidney is asking the proponent of the proposed Gateway commercial development site to pay for an independent evaluation of its potential impact on the downtown core.

Mayor Steve Price says the Town met with Omicron representatives, who agreed to pay for an independent consultant. Town CAO Randy Humble confirmed Wednesday the consultant hired is Urbanics out of Vancouver.

“Council wants to do its due diligence,” Price said, “and we have requested Omicron do this.”

Omicron is looking to develop a 10-acre site at the corner of Beacon Avenue West and the Pat Bay Highway into a commercial area. They were hired by the Victoria Airport Authority (VAA), which controls the land. The VAA swapped land with the Town of Sidney last December to complete the parcel. In January of this year, the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) agreed to exclude the land from the Agricultural Land Reserve, helping clear the way for development. That ALC decision is being challenged by North Saanich resident Springfield Harrison.

The Town has not yet received an official application for the project.

Omicon representative Peter Laughlin said the consultant will look at the potential impact of new retail space on existing businesses in Sidney’s downtown core. While he said it’s not common to have such a study done, Omicron was happy to do it.

“You try to work with the community,” he said, “as we would do with any other project.”

Laughlin noted the consultant has been chosen and will meet with the Town to set the scope of work.

Laughlin said he didn’t want to guess the outcome of the evaluation, but hoped that it would provide the community factual information and ease fears of Gateway’s possible impact on Sidney.

In an email to the PNR, Sidney Councillor Erin Bremner, whose family owns businesses on Beacon Avenue, said the more the community can offer here, to keep people and their dollars close to home, the better.

“As this a major development proposal, if approved, it will most certainly affect our existing communtiy,” she wrote. “I’m hoping that the independent evaluation will detail how our current business districts will be impacted. From people in my age bracket, I often hear that there needs to be more for us and our young families. The question is, what needs will this development fill?”

A Town media release states they expect “the results of the study (to) be completed and presented to the Town as part of the rezoning amendment application package” submitted by Omicron — effectively at the time the company applies to start the approval process for Gateway. Laughlin said that could be four to eight weeks away.

Omicron and the VAA have set March 17 for an open house on Gateway. It takes place at the Mary Winspear Centre from 6 to 8 p.m.