This rendering shows the proposed warehouse for lands under the authority of the Victoria Airport Authority near a Sidney residential neighbourhood. (York Reality/Submitted).

This rendering shows the proposed warehouse for lands under the authority of the Victoria Airport Authority near a Sidney residential neighbourhood. (York Reality/Submitted).

Chamber of Commerce promises Sidney warehouse proposal will deliver jobs

Nearby resident said project’s benefits will be short-lived

A local business organization gives the thumbs-up to the proposed warehouse in Sidney, but one opponent says the benefits will prove to be illusory.

Al Smith, executive director of the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, said in a public letter that the organization supports the warehouse York Realty proposes for 9899 MacDonald Park Rd.

“We believe that the economic stimulus that this project will bring will help with the sustainability of the (Peninsula) in (three) ways,” he said.

The construction of the facility with an estimated value in excess of $50 million and its operation will bring more workers to the community to help support local businesses like restaurants, coffee shops, and retail establishments as well as providing much-needed jobs, said Smith.

New taxes coming to Sidney should also help reduce the tax burden for both residential and commercial property owners by increasing the taxable property pool and spreading the municipal budget costs across one more property taxpayer, he added. Finally, increased revenue would help the Victoria Airport Authority keep moving forward as ongoing travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has “drastically reduced” its revenues.

The letter does not cite any specific figures to support its claims, but acknowledges public concerns about the project’s potential impact on traffic. “While showing our support for the proposed project we would also like to raise the concern of the already existing traffic challenges in the West Sidney, South North Saanich, and VAA industrial areas specifically along the Beacon / McDonald Park Road corridor that was addressed (in a recent traffic study).”

The Victoria Airport Authority website states that it is “anticipated that the facility will create about 110 new jobs including managers, supervisors, and sorting personnel, in addition to the approximately 150 delivery drivers.”

Last-mile distribution centres have sprung up across North America with the rise of e-commerce. Research and Markets reported in late 2020 that the global last-mile transportation market accounted for $287.22 billion (US) in 2019, predicting that its value will hit $424.35 billion.

But these global figures are of limited value in assessing the local impact of the proposed warehouse while the identity of the company planning to lease the building remains shrouded in mystery.

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Geoff Irwin, who lives on Jahn Place opposite the proposed warehouse and has started a local Facebook site opposed to the project, acknowledges the economic dimension, stating that he is not against development per se. Irwin, who works in development, also acknowledged claims from York Reality that the project would bring jobs to the region.

“But what we need to be aware of is that a lot of these jobs will be at or near minimum-wage jobs,” he said. “So they are not necessarily employment opportunities that are really going to be driving the economy.” In addition, many warehouse jobs are threatened by automation. “Yes, they will build this warehouse, yes, they will employ these…people, but five to 10 years down the road, when all of this is automated those employees are out of work anyway.”

Ultimately, Irwin opposes the project on a lengthy list of grounds including the “gross lack of consideration and regard given to siting and zoning, building mass, access, and noise…” as said in a long letter to authorities.

He is also concerned that the project trades short-term rewards for long-term pain.

“A development as large as this will impact the skyline of the community for as long as I and my children will be living – it needs to be reviewed strictly and methodically, without the pressure of achieving short-term financial gains,” he said in his letter.


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wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

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