Sidney Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith said the municipality expects the Victoria Airport Authority (VAA) to take what he calls a “leadership role” in the design and construction of a proposed roundabout near the warehouse where the online retail giant Amazon plans to operate a last-mile distribution centre.
“It is the expectation and understanding of the town that the VAA will take a leadership role regarding the design and construction of the proposed (roundabout),” he said in an email response to questions from the Peninsula News Review (PNR).
“No determination has yet been made regarding division of funding – that will be determined based upon further discussions with the multiple stakeholders, including the VAA, (Town of Sidney), District of North Saanich and York Realty.”
The question of who pays how much for the proposed roundabout at the corner of Galaran Road and Beacon Avenue West as well as other improvements to nearby infrastructure likely to be impacted by increased traffic from the facility was among several questions posed to McNeil-Smith.
McNeil-Smith adopted a neutral tone when asked about his personal feelings about Amazon’s arrival.
“I am pleased to see a suitable development on the previously undeveloped industrial site and the commitments to infrastructure improvements and amenities,” he said.
The PNR also asked McNeil-Smith how much he believed the promise from Geoff Dickson, VAA’s president and chief executive officer, that the facility would generate about $900,000 in annual property tax revenue.
“Property taxes are based on the assessed value of land and improvements,” said McNeil-Smith. “Estimates of the future assessed value (once construction is complete) can be made knowing current land values and construction project costs, and applying the appropriate tax rates. Both the VAA and York Realty are in a position to know these values and thus make an estimate of the annual property taxes.”
Turning to concerns about housing, transportation and employment, McNeil said in part that housing affordability is a complex and challenging issue that extends well beyond the Amazon announcement.
“(Sidney) will continue to focus on the housing issue by working with the other government levels, including the CRD, housing societies, and private developers,” he said. “Regarding transit, the town maintains ongoing discussions with BC Transit staff and at the transit commission level regarding local service-level challenges.”
McNeil was asked whether retailers already struggling to find staff will be forced to compete for workers with Amazon and what role the municipality should play in dealing with issue.
“The employment market regionally is impacted by many factors,” he said. “Existing business growth and the addition of new business throughout the region is just one of the dynamic factors.”
McNeil-Smith was also asked to judge the level of public consultation around the project following comments from Steve Duck, president of the Sidney Community Association, who had earlier questioned the level of consultation.
While Sidney has no say in approving developments on VAA land, council appreciated the municipality’s opportunity to make recommendations, he said in part, adding council is pleased that VAA and York Realty (Amazon’s landlord) have taken some three months to engage all stakeholders. “Accordingly, based on (council) recommendations and community input, York Realty made significant changes to the scale and design of the proposed development, and made commitments to improved transportation infrastructure.”
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