OUR VIEW: Fire hall site still a good one

It’s a good plan for both parties and appears to be good for the entire community.

Sidney’s community safety building is back on the radar.

This week, the Sidney and North Saanich Memorial Park Society — the entity that operates the Mary Winspear Centre, Blue Heron Park and other community amenities — announced the B.C. Supreme Court ruled in their favour, changing clauses within their 1921 Trust document. That document had prevented business activities — such as leasing land — and offered little assurance to potential lessees with a meagre five-year term limit. Plus, it gave residents, a fairly broad term, the ability to start lease cancellation proceedings on 30 days’ notice.

The Court’s decision clears that up and enables the Town of Sidney and the Society to complete a long-term lease negotiation for land south of the Mary Winspear Centre.

It’s a good plan for both parties and appears to be good for the entire community.

Not only will Sidney be building a modern, safe and structurally sound fire hall and ambulance station, the building will offer space for community groups and a small fire department museum in which to house its classic fire truck.

Mayor Steve Price also notes the building will be a gathering area in the event of an emergency — a boon to the entire Saanich Peninsula.

For the Society, the lease will give them some much-needed cash to shore up their maintenance coffers.

The Mary Winspear Centre is 15 years old and its Executive Director Brad Egdett has warned time and again that they need the resources to maintain what they have and replace what they need to. Over the last few years, the Society has been funneling money into a maintenance program to help ensure the building’s longevity.

The lease payments, on top of what the municipality is already contributing to the Society, helps ensure Sidney, North Saanich and the Saanich Peninsula will have an excellent venue for the arts, community events and cultural activities for years to come.

We still like the proposed location of Sidney’s planned community safety building. It has the potential to make the area more attractive — and active — while at the same time giving local firefighters the space they need to train effectively.

In the coming months, Sidney will refine its plans and determine the cost of the structure. It will then be up to residents to decide if they see the same merits in one of the Town’s biggest projects in recent years.