An Edmonton-based company plans to build a warehouse worth in excess of $50 million with a height of almost 23 metres on Victoria International Airport land across the street from a residential neighbourhood.
Matt Woolsey, president of York Realty, said Tuesday his company plans to lease the building to a “last-mile distribution company” but could not disclose the name of the company while the logistics of the deal are being finalized. He did note the public would recognize the name of the company.
According to Town of Sidney staff, the building would go up on an empty grass lot on the north side of Beacon Avenue West between Galaran and McDonald Park roads with the east-facing residential properties. The lot is federal land and outside the town’s approval process.
Plans show a gross floor area of more than 45,200-square-metres (more than six standard-sized soccer pitches) and its height (22.76 metres) would make it almost as tall as the Sidney Pier Hotel (22.85 metres).
Woolsey said it turns the traditional model for commercial buildings on its head from a sustainability perspective by using less land.
“We can actually make this all fit by being creative,” he said. “I’m trying to build a building that has longevity for 50 or 100 years. So it’s important from a functional point of view that it is designed the way it is.”
He added the location is the right place for the building. “It’s a logistics building in a logistics hub,” he said. “We are going to do our best to listen to the concerns that come back and incorporate them.”
Woolsey said the company plans to start construction as soon as possible if plans are approved by the Victoria Airport Authority (VAA).
While a memorandum of understanding with VAA gives the Town of Sidney an opportunity to identify any possible impacts on municipal infrastructure, the compatibility of the proposed development on the community and other comments and suggestions, the final approval lies with VAA.
“We are not the decision-makers,” said Coun. Peter Wainwright at Monday’s council meeting. But this acknowledgement — heard multiple times during the meeting when the public first heard of this proposal — didn’t stop councillors from expressing their concerns about the substance and roll-out of the proposal.
Coun. Barbara Fallot acknowledged the economic potential of the proposal but said its presence strikes at the very personality of the community. “And is it a price that we are willing to pay?” she asked.“This is something that is going to be with us (and) shape who we are for the future.”
Coun. Scott Garnett said Woolsey should have informed Galaran Road residents before coming to council. A sentiment echoed by Coun. Terri O’Keeffe who advised more respect should be shown to the community.
Coun. Chad Rintoul also expressed concerns about potential impacts on local infrastructure as well as noise and light pollution.
While Woolsey said the two sides could have had a better start to the process, he hoped council could see the project’s benefits.
Sidney has until May 11 to submit its comments to VAA, which may then make changes to the plan, if seen fit. Following any revisions, VAA then gives the applicant authority to apply for a building permit, which VAA issues.
Council unanimously agreed to delay its response until its May 10 meeting so residents could provide feedback ahead of that meeting.
Aside from public feedback to council, Rod Hunchak, manager of community relations with VAA, said the authority (working with York Realty) has established a public feedback portal at email@example.com.
“We review all the comments and see where it makes sense for us to pursue working with the developer to find solutions,” he said, adding the authority has already been working with the developer to address issues and concerns that could be raised.
Based on what was heard at Monday’s council meeting, he said “I don’t think there is anything that is insurmountable or that is going to make us really think twice about this. This is a very good development both for the airport and the region and the community.”
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