WATCH: Construction on the controversial Sidney Gateway project is set to begin spring 2017 after council approves rezoning. April Lawrence reports.
It is a quaint seaside town complete with coffee shops, boutiques and unique small businesses.
So it’s no surprise a 98,000 square foot shopping centre planned for airport lands down the road from the Sidney downtown core has garnered plenty of opposition.
At a packed public hearing to rezone the Victoria International Airport lands to allow the development to move forward, speaker after speaker pleaded with council to vote against it.
“Just because there’s vacant land somewhere doesn’t mean it has to be developed,” said one opponent.
“Please don’t support this sterile proposal by voting to change the zoning of this land,” said another.
But shortly after midnight, in a 5-2 vote, the project was given the green light.
“It’s going to have an overall economic benefit to the whole town, it’s going to bring more money into the town,” said Sidney Mayor Steve Price.
Price says the project slated for the four hectare vacant airport land will provide $5.5 million in amenities, including traffic improvements and a new pedestrian overpass, as well as new jobs.
“We get 200 plus full and part-time jobs which they’re really needed in our community,” said Price.
The Gateway project will include a grocery store, a pharmacy, restaurants, a daycare, and a medical centre.
But there is concern the project will harm small businesses in Sidney’s downtown core.
“Gateway’s shiny new attractions will suck the foot traffic out of downtown Sidney, inevitably damaging the business of even non-competing retail stores,” said North Saanich resident Don Enright at the public hearing.
But developer Omicron and the Victoria Airport Authority, which owns the land, say studies show that won’t be the case.
“There’s no small bookstores, there’s no small shoe stores there’s no small jewelers, there’s no flower shops, this is not intended to directly compete with the small merchants in the downtown core,” said James Bogusz, Vice-President of Operations and Development for the Victoria Airport Authority.
With it now approved, the project moves out of the town’s hands and over to the airport which still has to approve the development permit.
And even some who fought against it say it’s time to move on.
“It’s a new day and now we have to find a way to go forward and we will,” said Town Councillor Barbara Fallot who was one of two councillors to vote against the rezoning.
Construction on the Gateway centre is set to begin spring 2017 and will take about two years.
You can find further information on the Sidney Gateway project here.