Sidney councillors face a daunting task come Monday’s night’s public hearing on the proposed rezoning of land for the Gateway retail site.
Tasked with making decisions on behalf of the electorate, it could be said they are in a no-win situation — or at least a catch-22.
The Sept. 12 public meeting at the SHOAL Centre provides them an opportunity to approve the rezoning, removing a barrier to the commercial development. At that stage, Gateway is anything but a done deal — but is harder to fight against as the next decision-making body is the Victoria Airport Authority. The VAA board of directors and staff essentially take on the role of governing body over the property in question. And while the VAA has been transparent in its dealings on this matter, they are not your typical public body, whose every action is scrutinized by an electorate.
The VAA answers to different masters.
Still, the VAA signed an agreement that they will consult with the Town before they issue development and building permits.
So, should the Town of Sidney rezone the property, the intense lobbying movement is sure to shift gears, cross the Pat Bay Highway and set up camp outside the main terminal of the airport. Metaphorically speaking.
Even if council delays or does not agree a rezoning for this project is in the best interests of the community, they will face a backlash from the pro-Gateway side. Albeit, it seems that backlash would be significantly less loud.
Either way, there’s no real ‘win’ for council here.
The only win they need to be looking for is a victory for Sidney as a whole. It’s their job to do so and sometimes people forget that, as they rail against something that they feel is not in their town’s best interest.
The argument has been made throughout this debate that it took guts for previous councils to approve things like the Pier Hotel, Mariner Mall, the Paquette family’s waterfront project and even the Sidney (Safeway/Save-on-Foods) Plaza. And we won’t even mention the rancor over the Costco proposal.
In their day, those ideas faced plenty of opposition.
And can we say now that Sidney is any worse off as a result of those decisions?
It takes guts to be a municipal councillor — as it does to stand up for what you believe in.
Using those guts when it counts takes courage — even if you fail in the end.