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Sidney Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith praises arrival of Amazon

But the president of the Sidney Community Association questions the manner of the announcement
This artist’s rendering shows the proposed new Amazon delivery centre to be operating on Victoria Airport Authority land in Sidney. (Courtesy of Victoria Airport Authority)

Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith said the decision by online retail giant Amazon to operate a last-mile distribution centre in Sidney will benefit the community. But others are raising questions about the process of the announcement.

“We are pleased to see the ongoing confidence businesses have in choosing to locate in Sidney,” he said in a prepared statement released by his office. “This will be a significant construction project in the region, with major investment and employment during construction, and significant long-term employment and economic spin-offs.”

He made this statement shortly after the Victoria Airport Authority (VAA) announced Amazon as the tenant of the building that York Realty plans to build on land zoned industrial within municipal boundaries but under the authority of VAA opposite a residential neighbourhood at the corner Beacon Avenue West, McDonald Park Road and Galaran Road.

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Vanessa Pontes, PR specialist, external communications for Amazon operations (Canada), said in an emailed statement to the Peninsula News Review that Amazon is constantly exploring new locations and weighing a variety of factors when deciding where to develop future sites to best serve customers.

“Our expansion in Sidney is the result of an outstanding workforce, strong local support, and incredible customers,” said Pontes. “We’re very excited to be growing our operations network and creating great jobs in Canada.”

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Even before the announcement of Amazon, local business leaders had certainly praised the project, which underwent what York Realty significant revisions following concerns from neighbours near the lot. According to the VAA, the state-of-the-art building will have an estimated value of $65 million. VAA also claims that the centre, scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2022, will create 260 permanent jobs, $900,000 in annual property tax revenue for the community and the region and create what the VAA calls a stimulus for local road infrastructure improvements including a roundabout on Galaran Road at Beacon Avenue.

Rod Hunchak, VAA’s director of business development and community relations, said it was important to work with a developer with the reputation of York Realty to ensure that the building met their criteria for sustainability. “They pivoted when they needed to in terms of design and it is going to bring some really good economic revenue to the region.”

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Steve Duck, president of the Sidney Community Association, said the identity of the tenant is relatively immaterial, but questioned how the announcement was made.

“Most people are learning about this decision through the media,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that York and the VAA think so little of their neighbours. The SCA looks forward to Amazon being part of the process moving forward, bringing customer service to the project.”

The revelation of Amazon as the tenant of the warehouse resolves one but not all major questions surrounding the project. Perhaps the most visible and likely contentious one concerns traffic in the area, specifically along Beacon Avenue West at the intersections of Sterling Way and Galaran Road.

VAA said in the release announcing Amazon that it has committed to working with York Realty, the Town of Sidney, the District of North Saanich, and other stakeholders to plan for the design and construction of a roundabout at the intersection of Galaran Road and Beacon Avenue to ease traffic concerns.

Hunchak said key details including design, budget and cost-sharing arrangements remain to be worked out. “It’s a complex project and an added dynamic to the construction of the York site,” he said. “We have to take that into account. This isn’t going to be an inexpensive piece of infrastructure. That is why we are currently developing a budget. Right now, it is still in the planning stages.”

Hunchak could not give a starting date for work on the roundabout. “What we want to do is minimize disruption in the area, certainly during the construction of the Amazon building.” He said current plans call for the building to come first.

RELATED: Victoria Airport Authority and York Realty present “significant” modifications to Sidney warehouse proposal

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What is Sidney’s gain appears to be the loss of Langford, the subject of rumours that Amazon would come to the community.

Mayor Stu Young said it is great that Amazon is coming to Sidney, while expressing hope that the company could still find its way to Langford.

“We’ll roll out the red carpet if they decide to come here,” he said. “Amazon is a good employer, and we could use the jobs out here. And we certainly have no shortage of young workers who could fill that type of job.”

Young said Greater Victoria offers room for one more Amazon site and he hopes Langford remains on the company’s radar.

“We’ve been aggressive in our approach to let Amazon know we want them here,” he said. “We’re working hard on this, our economic development team is talking to Amazon.”

The Peninsula News Review has also reached out to incumbent MP Elizabeth May, York Realty and Al Smith, executive director of the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, for comment. It has also asked Amazon to comment on various criticisms after receiving the company’s initial statement about its decision to come to Sidney .

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