Sidney’s new Downtown Revitalization Task Force meets for the first time April 24 and its new chairperson says Beacon Avenue gives the 12-member team some common ground.
“We’re all in this situation together,” said Mark Dickinson, task force chair and owner of the Van Isle Marina.
Dickinson said his expectations of the task force include a solution to the doldrums faced by downtown retail businesses in Sidney.
“We are a very different group,” he explained, “and we’re going to have to come up with a very comprehensive solution.”
Dickinson was named chair by Mayor Larry Cross, who selected task force members from the community and from those who put their names forward. Dickinson comes to the group after living and being in business in Sidney for almost 60 years. He has served the Town in the past, as chair of the Advisory Planning Commission and chair of a waterfront sub-committee in 2003.
Dickinson said it’s not just the Town’s responsibility to solve local issues. He said it’s up to Sidney’s “free market thinkers” to step up to the plate.
As a business property owner on Beacon Avenue, Dickinson said he has his own interests involved as well as his own ideas of what could make the commercial core of Sidney even better. However, he said he wants the opinions of the entire group heard first. Even so, he doesn’t expect any quick fix.
“This is going to take time. It’s no magic wand that will be waved around and then we’ll all live happily ever after.”
He agreed this will be a hefty exercise and urges no one to panic while the task force does its job.
“This is a deliberate process. We need to find ways to best improve the downtown core.”
To do that, Dickinson said he anticipates plenty of public input in a process he hopes will not get bogged down in politics or single issues.
“The task force will be an arbiter of great ideas,” he said.
This week’s first meeting of the group will be to iron out its terms of reference, strategies and its work plan.
In a prepared statement, Denis Paquette of the Sidney Tourism Improvement Group (STIG) said they applaud Cross on the establishment of the task force.
“We … encourage the members of the task force to come with open minds to these discussions, no idea is too small, controversial or insignificant,” he stated.
Paquette and STIG have been pushing the Town to change Beacon Avenue to a full two-way traffic pattern. Cross has said that issue is off the table.
STIG, the Town and Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce recently hosted presentations by retail consultant Richard Talbot. A Sidney resident, Talbot has talked about outside threats to the ongoing success Sidney’s commercial core and outlined ways to prevent the loss of business.
Talbot has been suggesting a mayor’s task force since he first raised the matter with Cross and Town council weeks ago.
Downtown Task Force
Chair Mark Dickinson
Vice-Chair Brian Losie
Mayor Larry Cross and Councillor Marilyn Loveless (Town of Sidney representatives).