To listen to Sidney municipal councillors, the housing development at the former North Saanich Middle School site — being called Harbour Landing — is a done deal.
Five of the six councillors all but fell over each other to praise the project as housing that the community needs. Yet at the same time, they used language that seemed to degrade the project (“It’s the best of the worst,” “it’s not perfect, “the project is a compromise”) in an attempt to soften the message to an audience less than enthusiastic about change in their neighbourhood.
That’s unfair to both the developer and the residents around it.
If Sidney councillors truly believe that the project is worthwhile, then their majority vote to create a building zone specifically for it should have been backed up with well thought-out reasoning — not excuses for proceeding with the plans. Nor should councillors say Harbour Landing was anything other than the only option being touted for the property. School District 63 sold it to a single development company and these plans are the only ones aired publicly for debate.
Employers on the Saanich Peninsula have been calling for more affordable housing for years and a higher density subdivision with options for secondary suites is a good start. Yes, there will be change in the neighbourhood, including more traffic, but the question: “is it in the best interests of the community?” should be taken seriously at the council table.
Neighbours should be given clear answers as to why our elected officials support such plans, instead of milquetoast responses made to avoid conflict.
Those residents deserve a council that will ask serious questions and consider neighbourhood conflicts when a project begins, rather than have them added in an afterthought in the rush to approve.