It’s been an exciting challenge serving as mayor and our [council] has seen remarkably wide-ranging community business during its first year. We meet four times most months (two council and two committees-of-the-whole) and we individually share over 40 appointments to serve on committees, boards and commissions in Sidney and the CRD region.
Council adopted a four-year strategic plan in early 2019 and recently updated it for the balance of our term. Front and centre in the plan is a comprehensive review of our Official Community Plan (OCP). A Housing Needs Assessment, the provincially mandated first step to an OCP review, was completed and presented to council in the fall.
The report highlighted Sidney residents average age is 58, versus 45 for the province, and nearly 40 per cent of residents are age 65 and older, versus 17 per cent for the province. Sidney has long been an attractive place for retirees, and developers have been responding to that demand. However, Sidney is also attractive for a large range of businesses, and some 5,000 employees are working in over 800 businesses based in Sidney.
There’s a huge demand for affordable rentals and home ownership for families and individuals, and for businesses to attract and retain employees. Prioritizing the 29 recommendations in the 100-page report will be important work for council and staff in 2020 and through the OCP review. The housing pressures have developed over many years and it will take ongoing efforts by our council and others in the Capital Region.
Council also recently received and approved a detailed staff report for next steps in the OCP process in 2020 and 2021. It will be the most wide-ranging review and public engagement in Sidney’s history, and we look forward to the input from residents, businesses and community organizations. A separate area on the Town’s website covers all aspects of the OCP review.
Community infrastructure projects figured prominently in 2019 and will continue in 2020. We celebrated opening our new Community Safety Building for the Sidney Fire and Rescue Department and the BC Ambulance Service. We also had the adjacent opening of 170 additional parking spaces for employees in the area and Mary Winspear Centre patrons. Council took decisions for the remediation of contamination of Reay Creek Pond, a Transport Canada project, and the related Reay Creek Dam, a Sidney project. Consultations are ongoing to consider the projects being done concurrently in 2020. Beacon Wharf and the nearby fishing pier will have important maintenance work done in 2020.
Our strategic plan is broad in its scope and we also have strategic initiatives in the areas of environmental stewardship, economic vibrancy, transportation, community safety, health and well-being. When I talk to residents, businesses, the leadership in our many community organizations and their volunteers, the message is the same: Sidney is a remarkably vibrant and prosperous community. While we have so much to appreciate, we all aspire to make it a better community. For the part that the Town of Sidney plays, I remain committed and honoured to serve our fine community with my Council colleagues and Town staff.