Victoria Airport Authority Unveils Master Plan

In a presentation to Council, VAA's Marketing Manager Terry Stewart outlined their Master Development Plan, including a new business park proposed for Willingdon Rd. involving conversion to light industrial of 43 acres of Federal farmland. In response to Council's concern about the potential loss of productive land, the VAA explained that there is no Agricultural Land Reserve to protect federal lands but despite this, the VAA continues to farm large tracts of their land around the airport.

But in what I think is a groundbreaking move, the Airport Authority has offered to donate to North Saanich all the topsoil from the Willingdon Rd. construction site for local farmland remediation as well as nearly four acres of parkland on Mills Rd., adjacent to the Anglican Church overlooking Pat Bay. Uses for this land could include locating the North Saanich Farm Market there during the summer season. Terry Stewart acknowledged the cooperation and significant input of Municipal staff in these discussions, noting specifically the positive efforts of our CAO Rob Buchan.

Other North Saanich community amenities under consideration as part of the VAA's Plan include new cycle and walking paths, enhanced public transit, completion of local heritage projects, rainwater management, solar/geo-thermal heating and LEED standard buildings. A unique feature of the proposed Willingdon Rd. business park site is the design, which will be built in a circular shape described as a "campus" that will also expand the airport's existing approach to responsible environmental stewardship.

The VAA concluded with a request for municipal validation of the Plan, part of the required approval process, despite the fact North Saanich has no jurisdiction over federal land. But I was happy to make a motion last night recommending validation in principle, subject to addressing some questions from Council and audience members, through a brief North Saanich staff report, that will be presented to us on September 19.

In closing, I believe that North Saanich enjoys a positive relationship with the VAA through a partnership that provides a variety of community amenities, such as cycle paths, Hospital Hill heritage restoration, rainwater management in and around the airport, intersection improvements at MacDonald Park and Mills Roads, water and drainage improvements to North Saanich infrastructure and, of course, increased tax revenues and new jobs that accompany new business and economic development.

I commend the Victoria Airport Authority for its excellent corporate citizenship and its proven track record in working with local government to find innovative solutions to shared concerns. Yes, an airport in the heart of the community creates issues and is challenging for residents and the municipality but this working partnership between the VAA and the District of North Saanich reflects the very best of a shared commitment to community-building and well-being.

For more information about the VAA, please visit their website at:

Sandown Property Out of the Gate

The first legal steps to moving the Sandown proposal forward were made following deliberation of two comprehensive staff reports (on required legalities/traffic and environmental reports) and lengthy Council debate at both the Committee of the Whole and Council meetings. Some amendments were made to accommodate what I believe were last minute objections by Councilor Browne (shared by Councilor Mearns), despite their being part of the discussions and privy to all staff reports occurring since May 2011.

The proposal now goes to the ALC but it only meets once more this calendar year (October) and then not again until April 2012 so timing was critical. And the Commission is the first step to changing the designation of Sandown to facilitate the current proposal. If the ALC says no, the proposal stops there. To delay the decision to begin the legal approvals could jeopardize the entire proposal so I am gratified with Council's decision to move forward with first steps.

Another public Town Hall meeting will be held on September 20, 2011 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM at the District Hall, 1620 Mills Road.

Municipal Auditor-General Causes Interesting Debate

Not everyone on Council is convinced by the suggestion from the Provincial Government to establish an Office of the Municipal Auditor-General to oversee municipal budgeting and financial management.

I believe that this idea is unnecessary and potentially costly to municipal taxpayers, an opinion shared by some other Council members and by many colleagues across BC. We are also reminded that current provincial legislation provides for both an Inspector of Municipalities and provisions that prevent municipalities from running deficits so why the need for more oversight? And in view of the Province's concerns about potential financial hardship because of the recently-defeated HST, how can it rationalize all the costs in setting up another bureaucracy?

I am sure that this will be a hot topic of debate at the upcoming Union of British Columbia Municipalities' Annual Convention, when municipalities from all over the province gather together to contemplate their future.