The president and chief executive officer of the Victoria Airport Authority (VAA) told the public that a proposed warehouse won’t change the financial situation of the airport but help it nonetheless.
Geoff Dickson made this comment when he spoke Monday before Sidney councillors, who later approved a series of motions that called on VAA to improve the design of the proposed warehouse as well as engagement with residents of the Sidney neighbourhood next to the facility as well as local First Nations. York Realty plans to build the facility, then lease it to a yet-to-be-revealed last-mile distribution company.
Sidney’s motions stopped short of a definitive statement for or against the warehouse and did not include specific recommendations toward improving the design of the building, which has been the subject of criticism from neighbours because of its proposed height and massing. But the proposal has also received support from the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce as well as members of the general public because of its expected economic benefits.
Dickson made the economic case for the facility throughout his presentation, which also included promises for improved engagement and taking Sidney’s recommendations seriously.
“Is this materially going to change our financial position. It won’t. But it certainly helps.”
Overall, the warehouse represents a “good revenue opportunity” for the airport. “It’s multi millions of dollars over the life of the lease,” he said, without giving a specific figure.
Dickson also pointed to the economic benefits of the warehouse to Sidney.
“I look at $325,000-a-year tax base for the Town of Sidney,” said Dickson.
While it’s difficult to determine the ultimate assessed value of the completed site, a rough estimate based on the construction value and a projected land value was done, said Andrew Hicik, Sidney’s director of corporate services and chief financial officer.
“My rough estimate was very close to the number used by Mr. Dickson,” he said. “And that’s municipal taxes only; the taxes for other jurisdictions would be slightly more than that, in total.”
Dickson opened his presentation in part by discussing the economic significance of the airport.
“This airport facility that you are neighbouring, that we are all part of, is close to a one-billion-a-year economic generator,” he said. “So the impact (of COVID-19) on the economy as you can imagine is enormous,” he said. “We look at our business being at 10 per cent of what it was in 2019. You can only extrapolate the numbers and think that is hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars of economic activity lost.”
VAA’s annual report for 2020 speaks of significant revenue losses for the airport with spill-over effects far beyond the airport itself.
“Ninety per cent of the revenue generated at Victoria International Airport is tied to passenger and aircraft activity,” it reads. “With passenger volumes down as much as 98 (per cent) and the number of daily flights decreasing from one hundred to as low as eight, the impact to revenue was severe.”
Overall, the airport realized total revenues of $17.1 million in 2020, $22.4 million short of planned revenue. When held up against expenses, the airport recorded a net loss of $8.2 million in 2020, which represents a $17.4 million change in profitability.
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