Sidney, B.C.; At Monday’s Council meeting, Sidney Council decided to abandon the Memorial Park Society (MPS) lands as the location for a new Community Safety Building and focus on a site slightly south, between the Mary Winspear Centre and the Town’s Public Works Yard. The site encompasses Town owned land currently occupied by the skatepark, and adjoining lands to the south which the Town leases from the Victoria Airport Authority (VAA).
The decision means the loss of revenue to the Memorial Park Society from the proposed long-term lease for use of their land and the proposed employee parking lot which was intended to free up parking space in the downtown core for customers.
Mayor Steve Price states, "Council’s decision to move forward with a site that we have more control over ensures the CSB project will be completed in a timely manner and that the agreement with BC Ambulance will be secure. It is unfortunate that the MPS site was lost but that was beyond our control. We look forward to working closely with North Saanich on a commitment to increase their level of financial support to the MPS now that the funds from the proposed long-term lease are no longer viable."
Had Council decided to continue pursuing the MPS lands, it would have necessitated going back to the BC Supreme Court with no guarantee of success and months of delay. Any challenges with the new site are minimal in comparison.
“From our perspective we are simply moving one or two blocks to the South and will retain direct access onto Bevan Avenue, so this change of site is not significant.” States Sidney’s Fire Chief, Brett Mikkelsen.
“Construction of this building will ensure Sidney residents have a fire, emergency medical, and emergency measures organization response not if, but when a damaging seismic event occurs. Equally important is, this new building will be large enough to house new equipment, facilitate improved training, recruitment, and retention of the Town’s most valuable asset, our volunteer firefighters.”
The search for a site for a new Community Safety Building came before Council in July 2010 with a number of possible locations identified. During the next six years, potential locations were explored through a process of elimination, each proving unsuitable or including impassable obstacles.
Prior to the MPS site, the Town seriously considered a portion of Sidney Elementary School lands after being approached by School District 63 staff in 2012. Between 2012 and 2014 the Town was in negotiations with SD63 with the intention of purchasing the property for the purpose of building the CSB. However, in November 2014 a Municipal Election resulted in a new SD63 Board and Chair with different ideas including one elected Trustees who ran their campaign on stopping the sale of the land; ultimately, the location was lost.
Moving forward, the new site under consideration requires a zoning amendment by the Town with approval by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI), and rezoning by Transport Canada. In addition, the site will require an independent evaluation of potential aviation risk due to proximity to the airport runway, geotechnical analysis of soil conditions and community engagement, in particular, with Orchard neighbourhood residents.
Council has directed staff to begin the process of securing the site and undertake the necessary steps required. It is anticipated that the community engagement component of the project will take place at the current Sidney Fire Hall in approximately four weeks.