A land swap between the Town of Sidney and Victoria Airport Authority (VAA) has the potential to help clear the way for major projects by both parties.
The municipality announced Dec. 21 that they have swapped a strip of its land alongside Beacon Avenue West, for a piece of VAA property between the skateboard park and the Town’s works yard. The exchange was negotiated in-camera, or out of the public eye.
The lease terms are for VAA to pay $1 for the Town’s land from 2015 to 2077. That thin strip of property lies to one side of the airport authority’s planned commercial and retail area, known as the Sidney Gateway. Those plans are still being developed.
In exchange, Sidney receives a piece of land that would connect existing municipal properties south of the Mary Winspear Centre. That would create a contiguous space that could be home to a proposed new community safety building and large parking lot, should the projects proceed. The terms and length of that agreement is similar to the first.
In May of 2014, the Town of Sidney announced it had signed a memorandum of understanding with the VAA, which sought to develop the 10-acre site south of Beacon Avenue West, between the highway and Galaran Road.
Then-Mayor Larry Cross said he wanted to see a portion of the land used for a tourist information centre. Current Mayor Steve Price was on council at that time. The Town has been saying it will not comment on the VAA’s plans, as the airport authority has not yet submitted official documents to the municipality.
In a media release following council’s Dec. 21 meeting, the municipality stated the lease agreement “in no way influences Council’s future decision regarding a potential OCP and zoning amendment associated with any future commercial development.”
The VAA is expected to seek amendments to the Town’s official community plan and zoning bylaw to change the site’s residential designation into commercial. The VAA has said it plans to work within local and provincial rules and is currently awaiting a decision from the Agricultural Land Commission on removing the site from the Agricultural Land Reserve.
Since the airport land is under federal jurisdiction, the VAA technically doesn’t have to abide by ALC regulations.
Preliminary plans for the VAA Gateway commercial site include a grocery store, offices and a medical facility.
Construction is still considered to be years away.