If all goes according to plan, the Victoria Airport Authority will be seeking proposals for its commercial site next to the Town of Sidney by mid-to-late November.
Touted as a new gateway to Sidney, the authority (VAA) signed a memorandum of understanding with the municipality in April. It means both parties are working together to develop 10 acres of land west of Highway 17 and south of Beacon Avenue West. The development of the area into commercial property has been in the VAA’s master plan for years. The Town is involved as it owns a smaller parcel (.16 of an acre) connected to the property.
Plans for the site were the subject of two public open houses (July 8 and July 15) at the Mary Winspear Centre. VAA President and CEO Geoff Dickson says they are seeking people’s ideas for the land, while making it clear that the goal is to make it a commercial development.
“We’re not hearing a lot of people telling us to do nothing,” he said. “They want us to do something that’s complimentary to downtown Sidney. We want to do the right thing.”
Dickson said once the feedback stage is complete by the end of the month, the VAA will seek official community plan and zoning amendments from the Town to pave the way for commercial growth. Part of that, he added, will be a tourism component with the Town. That could include a new visitor’s centre.
Other items asked-for by the municipality include a new roundabout into the site from Beacon Avenue West, sidewalk, road and crosswalk improvements, high-standard architectural design as well as “a welcoming gateway to Sidney.” What that means, said Dickson, will be worked out through a request for proposals process.
Should rezoning and OCP amendments pass this fall, Dickson said the RFPs could go out by November, with an additional 12 to 18 months before any ground is broken.
Sidney Councillor Mervyn Lougher-Goodey, who attended the July 8 open house, says in the big picture the business community faces new competition from proposed developments at Sandown (North Saanich) and Jesken (Central Saanich).
“Myself and other councillors feel that is reasonably good news for Sidney as shoppers will be coming up here from the south,” he said, noting the community could benefit from a trickle down effect.
Asked if such projects, including the VAA site, would take away from jobs and business in Sidney’s downtown, Lougher-Goodey said it will depend on what new businesses come to those properties. Overall, he continued, he thinks the VAA project is a positive for Sidney.
VAA Vice-President of Operations and Development, James Bogusz, said they have been receiving lots of ideas from people on what should and should not go on the 10 acres. One of the biggest concerns is traffic, with a few suggestions to move a planned roundabout further away from the highway to avoid congestion.
“In no way are we going out of our way to compete with other businesses,” Bogusz added. “We hope to add to it.”
VAA plans to be before Town council in August to start zoning and OCP amendment processes.
People can still have their say on the commercial plans at VAA. Visit www.victoriaairport.com/beacon to fill out a survey before July 24.