Central Saanich could be “open for business” for larger retailers after council opted to move forward with a bylaw to remove a size restriction in Keating X Road business area.
The official community plan currently limits stores in the traditional industrial area of the district to fewer than 53,800 square feet.
Last fall former councillor Ron Kubek suggested council look to remove that restriction in an attempt to revitalize the Keating area.
Coun. John Garrison said with proposals coming forward for First Nations land on the Peninsula, such as Jesken Town Centre at Tsawout and Co-op at Tsartlip, it’s important for Central Saanich to show “that it is open for business.”
“I think what it does is send a message to the business community that we’re at least open to the idea,” Garrison said. “It allows us to say we’re open for business, we’re prepared to look at major retail uses if they’re appropriate.”
“Currently on First Nation land we have a lot of development proposals that are going around. … This gives us a chance to at least offer and have a say at what happens in Central Saanich,” agreed Coun. Terry Siklenka. “This gives us a little bit of control.”
Councillors Zeb King and Adam Olsen opposed removing the size restriction.
“This is not out of our control,” King said. “The vision of the community as expressed in the OCP is pretty clear. What we don’t see before us is a proposal for this site so we’re ahead of ourselves.”
“I don’t believe the hurdles and the obstacles that have been spoken about are necessarily there,” Olsen added. “We will likely have to have a public process even if we remove this, so the obstacles and hurdles are still there. … The self imposed limits are actually not quite as impressive as some have made them sound. I think we are open to entertaining applications.”
Siklenka agreed with Garrison.
“This is just to be able to remove roadblocks so when businesses are looking at the Keating area they don’t see hurdles up front,” Siklenka added. “Maybe the issue is because we have these hurdles up front, that keeps businesses from coming to us.”
The obstacles for some are standards for others, King said, adding the OCP is a plan that undergoes extensive input from the community. He also noted the original size restriction removal came from council, and not from the public.
“It would be prudent for an application to come forward, go through the public notification process,” King said.
Coun. Cathie Ounsted pointed out that the issue would go before the public.
“After that we can continue on or not continue on,” Ounsted noted. “If we do not divert and diversify our tax base it will fall on the backs of all our residents.”
One member of the public spoke to the decision at Monday night’s committee meeting and the package presented to council included four letters from the public strongly opposed to the idea.
“It is generally impossible to have both large stores and small local stores in the same district because the large stores will slowly put the small local stores out of business,” wrote Steve Ward after the September introduction of the idea. “Amending the OCP to remove the above noted rejection of large stores will result in council selectively allowing large stores into the district, and that will result in the selective elimination of the small local stores selling the same products.”
The package also included a letter from Kubek.
“I would hope now that the Tsawout First Nations proposal has been made public that council adopt the bylaw to remove restrictions on big box stores in Central Saanich so we do not lose even more tax revenue to the First Nations,” Kubek wrote earlier this month. “We have a fragile business community in the district and now is a chance to make yourselves heard. Costco, big box stores are coming. The question is, will Central Saanich lead the way in order to share in some of [the] tax revenue that would come from this or will they be part of our community, but pay no taxes?”
Coun. Carl Jensen agreed, noting that revitalization of the Keating business area was a key election issue last fall.
“The Keating business park is an integral part of the community. A) It provides jobs for our residents, B) it provides goods and services for our community and C) it’s a source of revenue for the municipality.”
King and Olsen did not support the motion where council opted to move the bylaw forward to public notification and the first two readings by council. That would see the bylaw move to public hearing on March 12 at 6:30 p.m.
“It’s a self imposed limit that Central Saanich has to date placed on itself. As such, you could argue it’s somewhat ideological in its rationale,” said Mayor Alastair Bryson. “Every ideology has to be truth tested against the realities of the current context, and validated or defeated in a public hearing … so I look forward to hearing the public’s input.”
Committee decisions are recommendations to council to be ratified or discussed further during regular council. Central Saanich council next meets Monday, Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. at 1903 Mount Newton X Rd.
Did you know?
The Advisory Planning Committee in Central Saanich perused the staff report and did not support removing the size limit for square footage.