Looking ahead to 2013 on the Peninsula

Some of the issues a new year - and the News Review - brings to readers

Sidney’s summer market gets a new operator this year. It still promises to be one of the community’s most popular events.

What will be the most-read stories in the Peninsula News Review in 2013?

In our last edition, we took a look at the top 10 stories read online at www.peninsulanewsreview.com. Our readers looked at some of those stories thousands of times. Today, we take time to consider some of the bigger stories that the Peninsula News Review will be following in the new year.

There will be politics, projects and people who make the news and there will be the unexpected stories that appear as well. This preview takes a brief look at the issues that might have started last year and will be the subject of much talk in 2013.

By-election in Central Saanich

When Terry Siklenka moved temporarily down to Grand Cayman, he told the District of Central Saanich council that he needed six months of leave from his job as municipal councillor. It was initially granted — with pay — but later reconsidered when council found out just where Siklenka was. Siklenka ended up resigning his position and sparking a by-election.

This election will take place most likely in March, after the district hires a chief electoral officer some time in January.

To date, only one person has informally announced his intent to run for the vacated council seat — Christopher Graham, stating his intent in an email to the News Review. Graham ran unsuccessfully against mayor Alastair Bryson in the 2011 municipal election. The by-election could become more interesting should Councillor Adam Olsen resign. Olsen has announced plans to seek the Green Party nomination in the provincial riding of Saanich North and the Islands. The party holds its nomination meeting in late January.

Central Saanich new town hall/police service

The largest potential capital project ever undertaken by the District of Central Saanich — a proposed $15 million town hall and police services building — still has to face the electorate for approval.

Public consultation began in late 2012 and will likely continue in 2013 as council gauges the public’s response to the new facility plan — and a proposed tax increase to help pay for it. The district is also looking into other options, like a public-private-partnership, after holding an open house in November. The new facility is being considered due to health and safety concerns and a lack of suitable space in the existing town hall.

Future of the Co-op

The Tsartlip First Nation and Peninsula Co-op Board of Directors jointly announced on Dec. 17 their decision not to proceed with the proposed Gowdy Road Project.

The parties had been looking at building a new food store and Co-op headquarters on the site.

The Co-op had sought land on which to build in Central Saanich, but the Capital Regional District at the time refused land-use amendments to make it happen.

Erik Gault, Operations Manager and Interim CEO and General Manager of Peninsula Co-op, said they will look at their options and could move their headquarters elsewhere on the South Island. Their first goal, he added, is to try to keep the food store in Central Saanich.

Who will be the MLA?

With current MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, Murray Coell, not standing for re-election in the May 14, 2013 provincial election in B.C., the seat is up for grabs.

Coell is one of 16 B.C. Liberal MLAs who have decided to retire from provincial politics. Another five NDP MLAs have also chosen to retire.

What is Swartz Bay worth?

B.C. Ferries is appealing the land value assessment made of some of its terminal properties, including Swartz Bay with the District of North Saanich. Already, B.C. Ferries won a B.C. Property Assessment Appeal Board decision on the value of its terminal properties at Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver, reducing its value from $47.9 million to just 20 bucks. West Vancouver and the B.C. Assessment Authority itself is appealing this, as it represents a loss of close to $1 million tax revenue.

The District of North Saanich is watching that appeal closely. If B.C. Ferries is successful at Swartz Bay, the district could lose around $385,000 in taxes.

Sidney’s BIA proposal

In mid-to-late January, Sidney town council is expected to proceed with an alternate approvals process on behalf of the Sidney Business Development Group’s (SBDG) proposed business improvement area (BIA).

Late last year, council agreed to forward the idea on to downtown businesses for a vote on the BIA — a proposed marketing body that would charge commercial property owners a levy. Money raised by the levy (estimated to be $250,000) will be used to promote Sidney’s downtown shopping area to new and existing customers, to help boost the local economy.

Results from the alternate approvals process are expect my mid-March and the SBDG would look to begin marketing Sidney in May or June.

Sidney’s new roundabout/traffic patterns

A new roundabout is planned for the intersection of Fifth Street and Ocean Avenue in Sidney. At an estimated $1.4 million, the project is funded out of the town’s gas tax revenue, contributions from ICBC and the B.C. government. It is expected to be complete by June, 2013.

The new roundabout might help some local traffic issues — especially when it comes to directing drivers off of the Anacortes Ferry into Sidney proper. This issue is being forwarded by a new group — the Sidney Traffic Improvement Group (STIG), headed by Denis Paquette. Paquette, a hotel owner, has been a longtime proponent of more signage and traffic patterns that helps drive more tourists into Sidney. Paquette and STIG are asking council for $25,000 to study the traffic and visitor numbers to help provide a look at what is needed.

Council has its own traffic study done in the fall of 2012. By late January, council is expected to see the results into its look at traffic patterns in the downtown core.

Sidney’s summer market

Laurie McDermid of Westcoast Impressions Event Panning will be the new operator of Sidney’s Summer Market. She was selected after the town terminated its agreement with past market operator, the Sidney Business Association, in July. McDermid has worked with the SBA on the market in the past.

The town lost confidence in the SBA’s operation of the market in the spring of 2012, citing a lack of willingness to make significant changes that town and a group of downtown merchants had suggested to make the event more attractive. The SBA had run the market for 13 years.

Political shenanigans in North Saanich

Since the 2011 municipal election, the council of the District of North Saanich has been at odds on many issues — from growth and housing and political appointments, to sharing information and interaction with staff.

The council sees regular split votes on such debates. A majority of four councillors — Dunstan Browne, Ted Daly, Craig Mearns and Conny McBride — have forwarded the growth debate since the election and have been dubbed the “gang of four” by some of their political opponents. Mayor Alice Finall and councillors Celia Stock and Elsie McMurphy have generally been seen to represent the ‘slow growth’ faction.

This divide, as well as council communications difficulties with their senior staff, led to discussion of calling in a mediator to help resolve those issues. While initially rejected, continued acrimony between council and staff forced council to change its mind in the fall and hire Gordon Sloan for $5,000. Councillors to date have been mum on the outcome of that mediation.

Housing growth on the Peninsula

Seeking a balance between agricultural land, commercial space and residential areas causes angst on all sides of this debate.

Ever since an industrial business group, among others, lamented the lack of so-called affordable housing for their workforce, local municipal governments have been trying to create policy to make it possible. The issue is most heated in North Saanich, where district politicians are split on the matter and are facing around 100 proposed housing units in ongoing development requests over the immediate future. Leading the way are 40 units proposed for land at 9395 East Saanich Road. Located next to an existing residential area in the Town of Sidney, the development includes options for secondary suites or laneway houses — some of the affordable options considered under district policy. Yet, there are no guarantees the affordable options will happen.

In 2013, the district continues to stream the 9395 East Saanich Road proposal alongside the required official community plan, zoning and regional growth strategy amendments needed to make it happen. Throw in a community consultation process, and you could see this development fall off any perceived fast track, and join the rest in limbo until a clear direction becomes apparent.

Airport growth

The Victoria International Airport embarks on $8.1 million in interior renovations this year, part of its 10-year, $200 million expansion and upgrades plan.

The first phase involves a reorganization of the escalators and elevators, expansion of lower floor passenger areas and additional retail space beyond the security checkpoint. Also on tap for 2013, or perhaps 2014 depending on funding sources, is a planned runway extension of 800 feet.

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