As the Gateway project was approved to go to a public hearing in the fall, the war of words over its impact on Sidney’s downtown, continued.
On July 6, the PNR reported Richard Talbot, an international retail consultant and head of a local council watchdog group, critiqued the Urbanics report and information collecting done for it by Abingdon Research.
It was a 10-page critique, challenging the numbers used in the Urbanics report that would point to a predicted net benefit to Sidney should Gateway proceed. In response, Councillor Peter Wainwright on Monday night, July 11. filed a rebuttal. He said that Talbot’s comments were mostly based on opinion and uses worst-case scenario figures on population growth, average sales data and more.
“The overall tone of (Talbot’s) report was derogatory,” Wainwright said. “He makes some statements that are really quite unprofessional.”
He referenced a comment by Talbot on the use of a “belated survey” by Urbanics, calling that pure speculation on Talbot’s part.
“It has no place in an objective review.”
Wainwright outlined other issues he found with Talbot’s submission, noting, “I do not find this review credible.”
Mayor Steve Price added Talbot, and by extension his Support Our Sidney group — and even the News Review for publishing Talbot’s concerns — does “a disservice by spreading propaganda.”
“And then we have to spend a lot of our time to debunk it,” Price continued.
Following the July 11 council meeting, the debate continued via emails between Talbot and Wainwright. They got into predictions over population growth and other numbers.
Talbot shot back that his review was not an official peer review and Wainwright was nit picking over the details.
“That is why you get the big bucks and I just volunteer my time,” Talbot wrote. “My role is merely to point out at the macro level that the Urbanics and Abingdon studies are seriously flawed and skewed in favour of the VAA and that such a peer review is essential if Council is to have any credibility going forward.”
Coun. Wainwright responded that Talbot’s rebuttal was opinion.
“If Mr. Talbot is choosing to disregard sources of data used by Urbanics he should explain why he chooses to do this. Otherwise the reader is likely to conclude that he didn’t read the Urbanics report thoroughly when preparing his review.”
Both sides seem to agree all numbers on all sides are subjective and the actual outcome of an impact on Sidney by Gateway, is hard to predict.
Price has stated the Town will not seek a peer review prior to taking the Gateway rezoning proposal to the community in a public hearing.