Rendering shows a four-storey mixed-use building (in centre) proposed for 2060 White Birch Rd. Current plans call for 63 rental units as well commercial space. (Screencap)

Rendering shows a four-storey mixed-use building (in centre) proposed for 2060 White Birch Rd. Current plans call for 63 rental units as well commercial space. (Screencap)

Public, councillors ask tough questions about proposed Sidney waterfront development

White Birch Road plan calls for 63 rental units, but all at market rate, councillors hear

A proposal for a four-storey mixed-use development with waterfront access in Sidney prompted questions about its economics and design among other issues during its initial hearing before councillors.

The Alston Properties plan calls for 63 rental units and commercial space, possibly a restaurant, at 2060 White Birch Rd. The company also plans to maintain the existing marina use on the property and refurbish the existing marina office building.

The prominent waterfront location in Sidney’s northeastern corner has been the subject of several development proposals, but remains under-developed after the expiration of three development permit applications previously approved in 2007, 2015 and 2018.

Brent Alston assured committee-of-the-whole Monday (July 11) that his company is fully committed to the project, one he said would bring much-needed rental housing to Sidney and enhance the neighbourhood. But he tempered expectations noting, “so we won’t be able to bring affordable rental apartments. They will be market rent (apartments).”

While Alston signalled his company’s willingness to enshrine the units as rentals in perpetuity, he had no definitive answer for Coun. Scott Garnett about what constitutes market rent.

“I don’t know if I have numbers off the top of my head,” Alston said.

“It depends on size, where it is in the building, all these different things. Market rents are pretty expensive in Sidney. In the downtown, one-bedrooms are over $2,000. So it’s quite high.”

While Garnett acknowledged the difficulty in supplying an immediate answer, he called on Alston to provide additional information.

RELATED: Former Blue Peter Pub site in Sidney to become mixed-use development

Other comments from councillors and members of the public focused on the size of the building.

“You know this and your neighbours know this, this is a very special property,” Coun. Chad Rintoul said. “There aren’t many pieces of land like this that are developable. So we want to see you get this right and your neighbours want to see you get it right, so that it is truly something special well into the future … it’s imposing.”

Rintoul, who had earlier asked Alston for more graphics to support his verbal answers, suggested the pending review of the proposal in its current form by Sidney’s advisory planning commission (APC) might not be friendly.

“As we look at this now, this is likely to be critically reviewed,” he said. “I hope prior to going to APC you take the tone and the comments that have come from the discussion this evening and look to address those concerns, either through some revisions or through frankly doing a very comprehensive introduction to APC … to start from scratch and do a really thorough presentation.”

Other concerns included parking and accessibility issues, the impact of the development on local trees and its proximity to a bird sanctuary.

In the end, council’s committee-of-the-whole unanimously agreed to send the proposal for review to APC, but not before the company submits additional design details and a building shadow impact report.

Coun. Peter Wainwright said the public will have many further opportunities for input, pointing out that the proposed rezoning requires a public hearing.

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