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Road improvements near future Amazon site in Sidney to cost almost $5 million

Airport authority, Sidney, North Saanich funding work
Sidney announced Monday it will cover 40 per cent of the $4.9 million going toward road improvements near the future site of the Amazon distribution under construction on lands within municipal boundaries under the authority of the Victoria Airport Authority, whose share of the costs will also be 40 per cent. North Saanich will cover the remaining 20 per cent. Those improvements include a roundabout at the corner of Beacon Avenue West and Galaran Road. (Black Press Media file photo)

The public purse will cover the majority of infrastructure improvements necessitated in part by the arrival of Amazon on the Saanich Peninsula.

Sidney, North Saanich and the Victoria Airport Authority (VAA) on Monday jointly announced a memorandum of understanding to build a roundabout at the intersection of Beacon Avenue West and Galaran Road.

The project will also see the realignment of Stirling Avenue to the roundabout. The estimated cost of the project is $4.9 million, with Sidney and VAA each paying 40 per cent of the costs and North Saanich 20 per cent.

The announcement comes almost 11 months after the public first heard of plans for a last-mile warehouse distribution centre – since scaled-down – on land within Sidney’s borders but under VAA jurisdiction. Some four months later, Amazon was officially confirmed as the tenant of the building, which is now under construction on land bounded by Beacon Avenue West, McDonald Park Road and Galaran Road.

The warehouse proposal sparked concerns last spring about the suitability of local infrastructure to handle increased traffic from a distribution centre. While lacking direct control over the application, Sidney council passed language in May 2021 that calls on the VAA be a “partner in funding and take a leadership role in working with York Realty, the Town of Sidney, the District of North Saanich, and other stakeholders” to ensure design and construction of a roundabout at the intersection of Beacon Avenue West and Galaran Road and that Stirling Way be realigned.

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Monday’s release was silent on any direct financial contribution from building developer York Realty, or what Sidney and VAA have in past called “other stakeholders,” which could include Amazon.

As York Realty’s direct relationship is with VAA – the development is on federal land – “the (municipality) does not have the same rights and abilities as we would with a developer on private land within the town,” Sidney’s chief administrative officer Randy Humble said.

Humble suggested VAA’s 40 per cent contribution could be collected from developers of various projects that have or will impact traffic in the area, but only VAA could confirm this. “Since the need for these improvements is the result of several developments over the last decade, along with future anticipated development in the area, it would not be reasonable for one project to pay for the (entire) project,” he said.

Rod Hunchak, VAA’s director of business development and community relations, confirmed the funding agreement is between VAA, Sidney and North Saanich. “Given that these road network improvements have been identified for a number of years and are required because of multiple developments in the area, it is difficult to pin financial responsibility onto one individual development, including York (Realty),” he said.

Hunchak added VAA and Sidney have been working with York Realty. “It is important to point out that the scope of construction includes a number of offsite improvements to infrastructure such as sidewalks and upgrades to underground services,” he said, adding VAA and Sidney are working with York to ensure the timing of these improvements are maximized to take into account the schedule of construction of the facility.

Matt Woolsey, York Realty’s president, said the off-sites upgrades are driven not by facility requirements but by Sidney’s desire to modernize and improve infrastructure in the immediate area, adding the building would be a significant source of property tax revenue for Sidney.

The press release said the need for a roundabout was first identified about 20 years ago with a proposed gas station in the area. “Since then, concerns about traffic management in this area have increased, including during proposals for Sidney Crossing, Sandown Park, and the Amazon distribution centre.”

Sidney Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith called the roundabout a “much-needed improvement” to west Sidney’s transportation infrastructure. “Our future looks brighter when we have the infrastructure to support economic growth and the needs of residents in our wider community,” he said in the release.

Victoria Airport Authority president and CEO Geoff Dickson added his organization is pleased to partner with Sidney and North Saanich on this infrastructure. “Victoria Airport Authority recognizes the impact the development on airport lands may have on the road system,” he said. “This funding partnership and investment will improve traffic flow in the community.”

North Saanich Mayor Geoff Orr also welcomed the project. “This efficient roundabout design will benefit Saanich Peninsula residents and local businesses, and improve vehicle, pedestrian, and cyclist safety,” he said.

Work on detailed designs is expected to get underway soon, with completion of the roundabout and realignment targeted for fall 2023.

Black Press Media has reached out to Amazon for additional comment.

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