Public submissions to Sidney council concerning plans for the proposed warehouse on airport land raise concern about the impact of the building on traffic, surrounding residential neighbourhood environment but also reveal a measure of support.
Not counting late submissions, Sidney council received 44 submissions commenting on plans by York Realty to build a warehouse at 9899 McDonald Park Rd. that would almost be as tall as the Sidney Pier Hotel (just under 23 metres) with a total gross floor area larger than six full-sized soccer fields.
The proposed project valued in excess of $50 million has been the source of much public debate in Sidney and beyond and the May 10 meeting of Sidney council offers the public an opportunity to air their views about the project with the understanding that the Victoria Airport Authority — not council — makes the final decision.
A memorandum of understanding between the municipality and the authority has referred the project to the municipality for comment and council last month delayed its official response — due May 11 — to allow for additional public input.
That input shows considerable public concern about the impact of the project on area traffic, through the major intersection of Beacon Avenue West and Highway 17, as well as the nearby intersection of Galaran Road and Beacon Avenue West.
“I have many objections to this proposal but my greatest one is the increased traffic congestion that will occur,” wrote Joan Richardt in capturing a prevailing point in the submissions.
Even public supporters of the project such as the Peninsula Chamber of Commerce and Robin Richardson, former chair of Sidney North Saanich Industrial Group (SNSIG) among others are calling for improvements to the local transportation infrastructure with a looming dispute over the nature of those improvements and the sharing of costs.
Sidney staff have called on VAA take an unspecified “leadership role” in working with York Realty, the municipality and other stakeholders to ensure construction and design of a two-lane roundabout at intersection of Beacon Avenue West and Galaran Road, a project likely to cost more than the estimated figure of close to $3 million for a single-lane roundabout and the realignment of Stirling Way.
Documents from the VAA suggest a certain level of resistance toward this recommendation. Citing two studies from the same traffic consultant (one commissioned in part by Sidney, the other commissioned by York Realty), VAA argues that the development “did not singularly trigger a requirement” for a traffic circle at the intersection of Beacon Avenue and Galaran Road while acknowledging such a structure may appear eventually.
Other comments focused on the environmental effects of the project. “Has anyone heard of climate change?” asked Jennifer Margison. “Let’s add more traffic to our already congested roads.”
Other critical submissions focused on the impact of the warehouse, both from a visual and operational perspective on the nearly residential neighbourhood along Galaran Road.
“I do not think such a massive building should be built at this location as it will impact the neighboring housing community with excess noise, traffic and by increasing congestion at (Highway 17) and Beacon Ave,” said Lynda Comber.
While a minority, the proposal also has supporters. While Richard expressed appreciation for the support from some council members for the residents of the area, it has always been zoned commercial, adding that the West Sidney Local Area Plan had envisaged commercial development of this type. “I am certain the developer can mitigate against some of the impacts,” he said.
According to the VAA, York Reality will provide an enhanced landscaping plan and is developing a “green wall” along the east building facade facing Galaran Road.
Supporter Wayne Braid raised the possibility of area homeowners receiving compensation for any possible losses in their home values, while praising the project.
“Having viewed all of the information from the city and the VAA and York Development I am in favour of this development for our town,” he said. “I think this is a ‘clean’ development that will provide employment for people in our area and will provide significant tax revenue that will relieve the reliance on the tax base of homeowners and small (businesses) in our town.”
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