State of the Saanich Peninsula: Mayors deliver outlook on 2017

Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce annual Mayors' Breakfast a chance to connect.

Central Saanich Councillor Niall Paltiel.

The events, projects and decisions of the Saanich Peninsula’s three municipal councils have brought their respective communities to this point in time.

And what came before, is shaping the future of all three municipalities. A portion of that future was outlined by two mayors and one councillor at the annual Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce Mayors’ Breakfast March 2.

It’s an annual event that brings together municipal leaders and members of the Peninsula’s business community to discuss the decisions of the previous year, with what lies ahead.


Central Saanich

Central Saanich Councillor Niall Paltiel stood in for an ailing Ryan Windsor and delivered a lively speech, summarizing activities in his community. Last year saw a variety of changes, he said, from a new fire chief to a proposed $3 million housing project on West Saanich Road.

Paltiel outlined a variety of other projects still in the works — from a Keating Cross Road business corridor study to his push for an overpass from the Pat Bay Highway to Keating.

“I feel that it’s the next large transportation initiative following the Mackenzie interchange,” he said.

Looking ahead to 2017, Paltiel said the proposed Marigold Land development — 233 new homes — is the largest project of its kind for the District.

Other works ahead this year include revamping the Maber Flats water retention plans and an upgrade of the municipal website.

“It’s the finest technology that 2002 has to offer,” he joked about the current website.

He added the District had made 2017 the year of reconciliation with their First Nations neighbours.


Town of Sidney

There’s a lot happening in Sidney, says Mayor Steve Price. The Town saw a lot of growth in 2016 — and the start on a variety of Town-led projects, in keeping with its strategic plan.

“We have to be one of the most world-class places anywhere,” Price said.

The mayor said one of their key projects is the new fire hall — or community safety building. Price said they expect Transport Canada to approve a small zoning change soon, and when that happens construction is expected to begin.

Price noted the Town is also well into waterfront, streetscape, building density and West Sidney area planning, with reports, meetings and updates expected this year.

A variety of issues will come back to the table this year, he continued, including the Sidney Crossing commercial development and corresponding new pedestrian overpass.


North Saanich

Meanwhile, in North Saanich, things would appear a little more sedate.

Mayor Alice Finall outlined a few projects and highlights from 2016 — including the District’s Jubilee celebrations and legacy projects, as well as the start on their municipal hall reconstruction.

Projects started last year (or earlier) will continue into 2017.

North Saanich, Finall said, has approved the concept of finding a location for a new Vancouver Island Regional Library branch in the community, to compliment the existing one in Sidney.

The District’s work in planning for sea level rise continues, she said, as does work on the sale of the former Dunsmuir Lodge site from the University of Victoria to Homewood Health and the Pauquachin First Nation.


Q&A session

Following the presentations, the Chamber posed 10 questions to the municipal leaders — all of which were submitted prior to the event and forwarded to the mayors.

Finall had to leave to attend another event, addressing mainly a question about regional strategic planning.

“Mayors can’t do it on their own,” she said, referring to council governance on such matters.

Finall added she felt the Capital Regional District (CRD) has had a rough go over issues like sewage, but otherwise has done a good job administering growth issues between 13 municipalities in the region.

Asked what the biggest challenges are for business on the Peninsula, Price said there is more than one and Sidney tries to provide a solid base from which business can operate.

Paltiel added housing has to be the number one challenge to attracting skilled labour.

“As a District, we made a commitment to look for participants to bring in all kinds of housing options.”

Price noted Sidney is keeping its business taxes low, compared with other jurisdictions.

“Sidney is a very favourable place to operate, tax-wise,” he said.

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