Victoria Airport Authority hopes retail site near Sidney takes off

Victoria Airport Authority set to embark on public consultation as it refines its plans for a 100,000 square-foot retail plaza.

Peter Laughlin of Omicron

Extending the look and feel of Sidney’s downtown shopping experience is part of the vision for the Victoria Airport Authority’s proposed retail development at the western corner of Beacon Avenue and the Pat Bay Highway.

This week, the VAA revealed its revised plans for the site, redesigned following public open houses and an online survey held in July exactly one year ago. VAA has entered into an exclusive agreement with the development company Omicron, to design the site and help seek out potential tenants for the estimated 10 retail buildings proposed for the 10-acre site. The site, said Omicron’s Vancouver Island Director Peter Laughlin, will be anchored by a grocery store and large spaces for medical offices and a financial institution, among others.

While Omicron has been seeking out potential tenants, none can be be announced until they are formally signed once the project gets through a variety of local and provincial regulatory steps. Those include municipal zoning and official community plan amendments, approval of the roadway plans by the Ministry of Transportation and Highways and the removal of land from the provincial Agricultural Land Reserve. James Bogusz, VAA vice-president of operations and development said the airport authority doesn’t technically have to adhere to ALR rules, as it’s a federal property. However, he said they want to act in good faith and give topsoil removed from the site during construction to area farmers.

Preliminary plans for the site show a re-alignment of Stirling Way, making it connect to Beacon Avenue West via a roundabout at Galaran Road. That would mean a portion of VAA’s Flight Path multi-use trail would also have to be moved. Another two access points to the site are included along Beacon Avenue.

Design plans, which VAA and Omicron say will change as they continue to seek out public input, include green space, a pedestrian plaza and rain water detention pond.

Bogusz said the goal at the moment is to get the plans in front of the community for their response. VAA is keen on earning buy-in from the community and is also hoping the Sidney Gateway project will be able to join the Sidney Business Improvement Area Society.

Sidney Mayor Steve Price says council wants to hear about what people think about the proposal. Price was mum on details of the project shared between the VAA and the municipality.

“We respect VAA’s effort to work closely with the community,” Price said. “It shows the respect they have for the area’s residents.”

In May of 2014, the Town of Sidney announced they had signed a memorandum of understanding with the VAA, which sought to develop the 10-acre site south of Beacon Avenue West, between the highway and Galaran Road. Then-Mayor Larry Cross said he wanted to see a portion of the land used for a tourist information centre.

“It’s to be the gateway to Sidney and the rest of the Island,” Cross said.

The VAA had, following the public process last summer, hoped to get the project through the approval process with the Town last fall. It has taken considerably longer. Bogusz said the current plan is to present the project formally to town council on August 10 and take their land plan to Agricultural Land Commission in September — with municipal zoning and OCP amendments being sought later in the fall. Actual build out of the site could take longer, depending on tenants leasing space.

For the VAA, President and CEO Geoff Dickson said if all goes well, they could have another developed area that helps contribute to the airport authority’s bottom line. He said the lease payments, like those in the industrial areas they control, help form a solid base of revenue that keeps their fees low.

The VAA is seeking public feedback on their plans, including their application to exclude land from the ALR. More information can be found at victoriaairport.com.