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Planning, not bylaws, needed in Keating, public hearing told

Mar 22 2012

Central Saanich should create a comprehensive development plan for the flagging Keating industrial area, council heard Wednesday night, and not simply tinker with bylaws in a knee-jerk reaction to potential development on nearby Tsawout land.

About 50 people attended the public hearing, speaking both for and against proposed bylaw changes for land in the Keating Cross Road business area.

The changes would allow big box-sized stores into the area — stores can now be no larger than 54,000 square feet, which is too small for the large stores — and would also allow large retail use in areas now zoned for light industrial use.

Several people at the meeting said the proposed amendments seemed to be an ill-thought out response to a proposed 650,000-square-foot development proposed for Tsawout First Nation land, just off the Pat Bay Highway in Central Saanich.

That development would actively court big-box stores. The proposal is still in the beginning stages, and is dependent on the province approving an overpass to allow access to the site. First Nations do not pay taxes to the municipality and do not have to follow its bylaws.

“My concern is that these amendments are a reaction to the really big box proposal at Tsawout and not necessarily effective or appropriate for the Keating industrial area,” former Central Saanich councillor Bob Thompson told the crowd.

“I recognize there are challenges presented by impending development at Tsawout, but rather than overreact, it strikes me that a planning exercise is a place to start.”

Jim Townley, who owns a coffee roasting company in Central Saanich, said councils over the years have consistently shown “zero interest” in economic development.

“The Tsawout are taking an economic approach to their community and we haven’t,” Townley said.

Amendments that are positive for business in the area are needed, Townley said, but they are only one small step. An overall plan is needed, he said.

Several speakers said they had concerns about the potential impact of big box stores on the community, but focused more on the need for revitalization of the Keating area.

Others said they were open to big-box stores, if only as one more option for the properties now vacant in the Keating area.

Several people spoke against allowing large retail stores on light industrial land, asking why higher-paying industrial jobs should give way to low-paying retail jobs.

But Michael Miller, a realtor with Colliers International who has worked selling and renting properties in the Keating area for more than 20 years, said it is difficult to draw more light industrial companies to the area. He has several large properties that have been actively marketed, but have received no bites.

“The market is telling us we need to be more flexible,” said Miller, saying allowing retail would provide more options.

Council is to make a decision on the issue at a later meeting.

kwestad@timescolonist.com

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