The president of the Sidney Community Association wants public engagement in line with past projects when it comes to a proposal for a large warehouse on land controlled by the Victoria Airport Authority (VAA).
Public forums permitting residents to comment on the abandoned Gateway Project and previously proposed redevelopment of the Cedarwood Inn and Suites property are necessary, but insufficient steps to engage residents and other interested parties, Steve Duck said.
“If nothing else, it would give residents a sense of being heard,” he said. “If you go back and look at the previous ones mentioned, Gateway and Cedarwood, in one case, residents came out in masses and didn’t change the town’s decision on what to do; in the case of Cedarwood, they did. But in both cases, there was value to being heard.”
York Realty plans to build the nearly 23-metre tall structure next to a residential neighbourhood along Galaran Road, leasing it to an as-yet undisclosed “last-mile distribution company.” Both VAA – which has final authority over the project – and York Realty are reviewing a series of non-binding recommendations from the Town of Sidney.
Broadly summarized, the recommendations call on VAA to make approval of York Realty’s plan contingent on certain conditions, including engagement with Galaran Road residents and improvements to the appearance of the building including revisions to the eastern facade “to reduce its impact” on neighbourhood.
Duck said it is obvious Galaran Road residents are concerned about the height, massing and traffic.
“As the community ponders the proposed distribution centre, how do we find a balance where everyone wins?” he asked.
Finding answers to these questions starts but does not end with genuine public engagement, he said. Most residents in the area learned about the project well after VAA informed Tsyecum First Nation but not other First Nations in the area, prompting outrage from the public and WSANEC Leadership Council Society.
“They dropped the ball,” said Duck. “They should have started that process back here with that engagement and now they let the cat out of bag.”
What follows next is about mending fences and finding solutions, said Duck. “It’s about addressing that process and finding the best solution for everybody concerned,” he said.
Both VAA and York Realty have publicly acknowledged failures in communication and promised improvement moving forward.
Rod Hunchak, VAA’s director of business development and community relations, said VAA continues to review all comments and recommendations received from the municipality through the referral process. “(We) will be updating our website with project information and monitor comments on our dedicated email,” he said. We’re developing our next-step community communications strategy with emphasis on communicating with the residents of the West Sidney neighbourhood one on one.”
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