Local MP Elizabeth May says it is imperative for the public to know the identity of the company that plans to operate a massive warehouse in Sidney on airport land as an important deadline for public feedback approaches.
“We certainly need to know who is going to be responsible for operating this distribution centre,” she said.
York Reality, the company planning to build the facility, has so far refused to disclose the identity of the “last-mile distribution company” that plans to lease the building, prompting speculations about the possible arrival of retail giant Amazon on the Saanich Peninsula.
“Quality of life and the quality of beautiful Sidney-by-the-Sea has something to do as well as with the small-business feel of the place and the ethical conduct of the companies within our community,” she said. “If it was Amazon, reputationally there would be concern. It could also be Purolator, which is part of Canada Post. There will be very different questions (depending on the nature of the company).”
May made these comments as her constituency office as well as the Town of Sidney continues to receive input on the project. The building has the equivalent gross area of more than six soccer fields and its proposed height (22.76 metres) would make it almost as tall as the Sidney Pier Hotel (22.85 metres). VAA and the developer are also receiving feedback at email@example.com.
The building with an estimated value in excess of $50 million lies within Sidney’s municipal boundaries but on land under the control of the Victoria Airport Authority. It — not the municipality — can approve or deny the project and officials have signalled their go-ahead. This said, residents can submit their feedback through the Town of Sidney, which has until May 11 to submit its comments under a referral process. The project will be back before councillors on May 10 and a number of groups have already positioned themselves. Supporters include the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, with outright opposition coming from the WSANEC Leadership Council Society. Other voices such as the Sidney Community Association and Save Our Sidney (SOS) have expressed concern about the project’s impact on traffic and nearby neighbours.
May said public feedback to her office runs against the project, but she can not discount that the project has supporters in light of its economic benefits.
May admits she has no power to stop the project. “Neither does the minister of transportation, neither does the prime minister,” she said. Airport authorities are autonomous, she added.
“If citizens want to stop the project, it would probably involve court action,” she said. “There is no minister at the federal level who is going to be giving a permit for this. It falls outside direct-line responsibility of any minister federally.”
The “only residual authority” available to the minister of transportation concerns airport safety, but it is very unlikely that VAA would have submitted a proposal that would be unsafe. The public heard earlier that VAA has signed off on the height.
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