Construction of the Sidney Gateway commercial site could begin as early as spring 2017, but it will take two years for it to be complete.
After Monday night’s public hearing by the Town of Sidney that saw the rezoning of 10 acres of land at the corner of the Pat Bay Highway and Beacon Avenue to clear the way for the project, development company Omicron began the next phase of Gateway.
Omicron Vancouver Island Director Peter Laughlin says the next step is to wait for a list of recommendations from the B.C. transportation ministry. Gateway cannot proceed, he said, until the province approves the project’s road improvements and traffic plans before, during and after construction. Laughlin said the ministry wanted to review an updated traffic study that looked at Gateway’s impact on the highway intersection, as well as the planned road re-alignments around the site.
The ministry is also reviewing the plans for a pedestrian overpass. Omicron has committed to building it from Gateway to the east side of the highway. Once complete, it will be turned over to the province.
The traffic study, as well as every other report connected to Gateway, is the subject of criticism by opponents of the shopping centre.
Richard Talbot, head of Support Our Sidney (SOS) a group critical of Gateway, says a traffic study rated the Pat Bay/Beacon intersection an ‘F’ — and an update didn’t see any improvements. Talbot said changes to Sterling Way and Galaran Road are good ideas in relation to the project, yet added the study hasn’t taken into account the impact of additional traffic from the planned Sandown Commons shopping area in North Saanich.
Laughlin said he was pleased with the outcome of Monday’s public hearing in Sidney.
More than 500 people packed into the SHOAL Centre to hear an overview of the project and to express their concerns. Forty people — out of 45 who spoke — were opposed to Gateway and the land rezoning for that purpose. Four supported it and a single person said he’d reserve judgement but only if the Town held a referendum on the matter.
That was not to be, as council voted 5-2 to rezone the land from residential to West Sidney Commercial, designed specifically to accommodate Gateway.
“Leadership was shown by mayor and council,” sad Laughlin, “in supporting the project. Even the two who did not support it were eloquent in their reasoning.”
He added it’s up to Omicron to get the two — Councillors Barbara Fallot and Erin Brenmer-Mitchell — on board. Laughlin admitted a large part of that is trust and the company’s ability to follow through on its promises.
Once the province makes its recommendations, Laughlin said Omicron will work with the Victoria Airport Authority on development and building permits. The VAA is the body now responsible for the project’s final approvals, as it’s planned for federal land. The VAA has stated throughout the process that it wanted to be transparent and include Sidney in its decision-making. To that end, they signed a memorandum of understanding with the Town, stating they would consult with the municipality at the development permit phase.
Asked if he anticipated any changes to the plans between now and then, Laughlin said “not at this juncture.” Any changes, he said, would probably come as a result of the transportation ministry’s recommendations.
Uncertainty over those changes and the Town’s loss of control over the project led to many concerns expressed at the public hearing.
“They now have carte blanche to build whatever they want,” Talbot said, adding despite the agreement between the VAA and Sidney, the project could still be changed.
Those fears, as well as worry over increased traffic and Gateway’s potential impact on existing Sidney businesses, is prompting SOS to look into its options to challenge Monday night’s public hearing. Talbot said the group is looking into going to the B.C. Ombudsperson’s office to challenge Sidney’s meeting procedure and so-called lack of transparency to the public.
That, he admitted, might only get the Town to re-do the public hearing, at best. And yet, he continued, the outcome might still be the same.
According to Omicron, the Sidney Gateway is approximately 100,000 square feet of commercial and retail space. It’s expected to generate $737,000 in taxes each year — of which Sidney’s share would be around $316,000.
Gateway is valued at around $30 million and could create 157 construction jobs, 220 full-time jobs once complete and is forecasting $44.5 million in retail sales by 2020.
Canadian Tire makes application for Sandown property
NORTH SAANICH — The District of North Saanich confirmed this week that Canadian Tire has filed a development permit application for the Sandown site.
Plans to develop the 12-acre Sandown Commons shopping centre have been in the works since the District approved the landowners’ splitting of the former racetrack into two parcels two years ago. The 12 acres were zoned for commercial use two years ago, while the remaining 85 (approx.) acres were given to the District as potential farmland.
The application was raised by Sidney Councillor Peter Wainwright during the Town’s public hearing on the Gateway rezoning. Critic Richard Talbot said that knowledge may have prompted some councillors to approve Gateway, over fears of losing tax dollars if Sandown Commons was built first.
In an email to the PNR, acting CAO Curt Kingley noted the District received the Canadian Tire application late in the day on Friday, September 9. The application is for the construction of a Canadian Tire store with associated parking and signage on a portion of the commercially zoned Sandown lands. He added the owner of the Sandown property is still in the process of fulfilling the requirements of the ALC —required before development of the site can take place.