Blog

My speech at the Sidney Community Assoc. All Candidates Forum (October 2nd)

I’m Peter Wainwright. I’ve lived in Sidney over 30 years and served on council for 19 years.

We live in a modern democracy. People expect to have a voice and a meaningful opportunity to participate in decisions; not a council that gives only the minimum opportunity required by law. This council has gained a reputation of not listening and being disrespectful to people, including authorizing the largest borrowing in Sidney’s history without the consent of the voters and approving a major development on the old fire hall land just weeks before the election. I am committed to changing this.

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We need to restore public trust in Sidney council.

Developments have been approved in our downtown that people believe aren’t consistent with our community vision or our OCP. This is troubling. There shouldn’t be any controversy about whether a development that’s already been approved is consistent with our OCP or not. We need to fix this. We need to clarify the vision in our OCP so there is clear guidance for future developments and for future councils. I am committed to seeing this happen through a process with meaningful public engagement.

All of the candidates here support affordable housing, attracting more doctors, and keeping taxes low. None of us are against development. The major differences between us are our vision of appropriate development and where we stand on openness, transparency and community engagement.

On October 20th please use your vote to elect a council that listens to people and will provide meaningful community engagement.

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Why I Voted For Gateway

Some people have been asking me to explain why I voted for Gateway. I’m not proud of this decision, but I’m not ashamed of it either. But, it’s not a quick explanation, so I decided to write it down.  People may not agree with some of the decisions I make, but I’m always willing to explain why I made a decision.

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Gateway wasn’t an easy decision. There were good arguments both for and against the project. What made it particularly hard was the conflict between the interests of our industrial area and west Sidney residents versus the interests of our downtown business area and our other Sidney residents. It didn’t help that there was misinformation on both sides – a lot of misinformation. And, some people were very passionate about their views and expressed their opinions in a manner that others found inappropriate or even offensive. That certainly didn’t make it any easier. No matter which way the decision went, many people were going to be unhappy.

I recognize that there were a large number of people opposed to the development. But, I wasn’t confident that was an informed opinion. That’s why I didn’t feel that a statistically valid survey of resident’s opinions would help me with this decision.

Some people were arguing against the development because they didn’t want big box stores in Sidney – but there weren’t going to be any big box stores in Gateway.  Others argued that it would hollow out the downtown and cited examples where a big box development or a Walmart had done that – but there wasn’t going to be a Walmart or any big box stores so those examples weren’t really applicable. Many people pointed to Richard Talbot’s analysis as their reason for opposing Gateway – but Talbot’s analysis had serious flaws: for example, he assumed no population growth and no change in average incomes. The 2016 census proved that both of these assumptions were wrong. After careful consideration I did not find Talbot’s analysis to be credible. These were examples of why I was feeling there were a lot of misinformed people.

Other people simply argued that they would never shop there and that we didn’t need another grocery store as reasons to reject the development – one could argue that we don’t need any more coffee shops and that I’m never going to shop at a woman’s clothing story, so we shouldn’t allow any more of these either.

People were expressing concern that the Urbanics report was biased because it was paid for by the proponent. I have worked as a consultant for more than 30 years. You don’t last long in the industry if you get a reputation that clients can pay you to write biased reports. Urbanics has been in business a long time with a good reputation. Would they really risk their company’s future for one $10,000 contract? No, they wouldn’t. While I did have some concerns about some aspects of the Urbanics report, I didn’t think I should disregard it because of bias.

People were expressing concern about the traffic Gateway would generate and whether the intersection could handle it. This was a legitimate concern. But, the traffic study, by qualified engineers that the Town has previously used, stated that with some minor improvements it can accommodate Gateway traffic with no significant impact on performance. And, MOTI reviewed those conclusions and agreed.

Some people argued that it was valuable land in the ALR – yes, but for at least 25 years Sidney’s OCP has contemplated development of that land.

On the other side of the argument, the West Sidney industrial community was telling us that they thought Gateway would help them to attract and retain employees. Some residents of West Sidney were saying they supported the development because they would shop there and didn’t like to have to cross the highway just to pick up a quart of milk. And, Gateway was going to pay for a pedestrian overpass, traffic improvements such as a roundabout at Stirling Way & Galaran (making a left-turn out of Stirling Way during lunch hour and around 5pm is a nightmare), and increase the tax base. Some also argued that approving Gateway would block Sandown – of course, that didn’t turn out to be true.

There were people opposed to Gateway who had well informed and reasonable objections, but it seemed to me that the majority of the opinions both for and against Gateway weren’t well informed. In a situation like that the number of people holding a particular point of view has less weight on my thinking.

Some found the expected benefits from Gateway to be greater than the risks. Some found the risks far outweighed the potential benefits. And, some felt we should be able to find a vision for this site with less controversy. None of these views is wrong. People came to these conclusions honestly, but from different perspectives and values.

It wasn’t a case of not listening or ignoring the interests of others. And, yes, I did understand that there might be a couple of downtown businesses that might find the competition too much for them. However, in the end, I felt that the expected benefits outweighed the potential risks therefore I voted to approve the development. Would I do the same again? I don’t know. All I can really say is that I would carefully evaluate the information, try to ensure that the community had good information and an opportunity to participate in the decision, listen to people’s views with an open mind, ask any questions I felt necessary, give the matter careful consideration, and then make the decision that I thought was best.

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Parking for Developments Approved and Pending in the Downtown

The picture below shows developments in and adjacent to the downtown that have been approved (in Red, some are under construction) and where applications are under review (in Yellow) as of 14 August 2018.


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Some facts:

If we just consider the developments between Bevan and Sidney/James White and assuming the development at the fire hall site is approved, these developments involve:

  • Payment in-lieu for 57 parking spaces
  • Variances to reduce requirements by 106 parking spaces
  • Elimination of 13 of the Town’s public parking spaces
  • Elimination of 55 privately-rented parking spaces in 2 commercial lots

The variances are: the affordable workforce rental housing development (44 spaces), the Star Cinema development (29 spaces), and the fire hall development (33 spaces).

If you want to see the details of Council’s decisions with respect to parking for developments during this term (for the entire Town, not just the downtown) have a look at this: Parking Summary 2018-08-14. To summarize: 16 developments were approved or are pending approval with less parking required by the bylaw. This represents a total of 184 parking spaces less than the bylaw requires, involving variances to reduce parking by 123 spaces and payment in-lieu for 61 spaces.

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Some decisions about development proposals are challenging

9762 Third Street & 9763 Fourth Street

Some decisions about development proposals are challenging. The proposed development at 9762 Third Street & 9763 Fourth Street is one of those cases. This is currently a privately owned narrow parking lot running between Fourth and Third Streets. It is currently zoned C1 Downtown Commercial which gives the owner the right to build up to a 4-storey building with 0-metre setbacks from the properties to the north and south.


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The developer is proposing 4-storeys of 27 residential units with a partially underground parking area with 17 parking spaces and 2 live/work units on the ground floor, one on Fourth St. and one on Third St. Because the parking area is only partially underground this is technically a 5-storey building and requires a variance for the number of storeys, although the height of the building is less than what the zoning allows. The C1 zone requires commercial on the ground floor, so the live/work units also require a variance. The C1 zone also requires that 10% of the units be 3-bedroom and located on the 1st and 2nd floors. Since technically the underground parking area is the 1st floor, this development also requires a variance to allow some of the 3-bedroom units to be located above the 2nd floor. Lastly, the parking area covers 59.6% of the lot area which is bigger than the 50% allowed and therefore requires a variance. The bylaw requires 29 parking spaces and the development will make payment in-lieu for 12 parking spaces.

This is a pretty challenging property to develop because of the long and narrow shape. I’m not opposed to seeing this property redeveloped, but I expressed concerns about the design particularly as the building on Third St. goes straight up to 4 storeys with no setbacks. The Advisory Planning Commission (APC) reviewed the proposal and made several recommendations to improve the design. The revised proposal came back to Council for review and then a public notice was issued to inform the community about the proposed variances.

A few days before the meeting where Council would decide whether to approve the variances and authorize the development permit 8 emails were received from residents of nearby condos to the south, the Watermark (9751 Fourth St.) and Livingston Lofts (2460 Bevan Ave.), objecting to the variances. Several of these residents came to the meeting and spoke passionately during public participation about their objections.

The main concerns expressed were the following:

  • Loss of natural light, views and air circulation in the Watermark;
  • 5-storeys should not be permitted;
  • The ground floor should be commercial not live/work units;
  • Availability of parking in the downtown is a concern and the site should remain as a parking lot;
  • Loss of privacy because the building will overlook north-facing skylights in bathrooms and bedrooms in the Livingston Lofts; and
  • The proposed development does not provide enough parking for the building.

This is where things get challenging. I’m sympathetic to the concerns of the residents, but this parcel has been zoned to allow a mix-use development for a long time. The owner has a right to redevelop the property in a manner consistent with the zoning. So, expecting it to remain a parking lot isn’t reasonable.

Technically the building is 5-storeys but from the outside it looks like a 4-storey building and its height is 2 feet less than the zoning allows. This doesn’t seem to be a substantial concern.

The architect made efforts to mitigate impacts on units in the Watermark in the design of the proposed development. The Watermark is also built with no setback from the property to the north, however, the residential units in the 2nd and 3rd floors are setback about 12 feet from the property line (shown below). The design of the proposed building also includes courtyards which align with the middle and corner units in the Watermark to soften the impact of the proposed development (shown below). Can the design be altered to provide more separation from the units in the Watermark? Yes, but not without reducing the number of units in the development. Should Council require the developer to make such changes? The variances being requested have nothing to do with this concern. Neither the OCP nor the Downtown Local Area Plan include guidelines which require the design to address these concerns. It is also not reasonable to expect that nothing would ever be built there which might limit the views from the Watermark. Council does have the discretion to deny the requested variances, but the owner could come back with a very similar design that doesn’t require any variances.  I’m sympathetic to this concern and the APC did consider this in their review of the design.

The concern about loss of privacy for units in the Livingston Lofts is challenging. The picture below shows many north-facing skylights which are at a steep angle potentially offering views into these units from the upper floors of buildings to the north. As can be seen, Livingston Lofts is built with zero setback from the parcel to the north with a windowless firewall extending to the 2nd storey. There is a 1-storey building between Livingston Lofts and the proposed development and when this building eventually redevelops there will be a similar concern about loss of privacy. Unfortunately, nobody seems to have thought about that when Livingston Lofts was built.

As can be seen in the perspective view below, the proposed development doesn’t have any windows on the south side which overlook Livingston Lofts. Some units have balconies where the side-view may overlook these skylights and the architect offered to revise the design to install privacy screens to prevent this. This would seem to effectively address this concern about loss of privacy.

The concern about the development not providing enough parking is one I sympathize with. However, the variance is for a bigger parking area and since it is not visible from the outside seems reasonable. To deny this variance would mean even less parking spaces for the development. Payment in-lieu for 12 spaces as proposed is allowed under the bylaw and does not require any approval.

At the May 28th Council meeting the decision on this development was tabled until June 18th to allow more time to consider this late arriving information and so that all Council members would be present for the decision.

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How Do You Elect a Good Council?

So, how do you choose a good council? Here’s my two cents on the subject:

The mayor’s slot is about leadership, ensuring that council works as a team and representing Sidney’s interests at the CRD. The mayor is only one vote on council. It’s not the mayor’s show to run things however he/she wants, but the mayor should have a vision and priorities to recommend to council. The mayor is also the spokesperson for the Town and has a lot of influence on openness and transparency. For council to work effectively and to best represent the community’s interest, council needs to work as a team with mutual respect and where all members have a fair opportunity to contribute to decisions. A strong council can make up for a weak mayor, but that’s not an ideal outcome.

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For the councilors you need people who will work as a team. Obviously they should have Sidney’s best interests at heart and be willing to put in the time. I think it’s important that the majority of council be residents or owners of businesses in Sidney. I’m okay with one or perhaps two non-residents provided they have a strong connection with our community and bring something of value to council. Residents and business owners have some skin in the game and will have to pay the taxes they vote on.

Council needs some experienced members so there is some knowledge of how things work and how to get things done, and to act as mentors for the first-timers. It is also desirable to have someone from the previous council to ensure continuity and familiarity with ongoing matters. We could rely on town staff for this, but better it be a councillor.

We need some new people gaining experience as councillors to provide leadership in future years. I think our community also benefits from new perspectives. I suggest it would be good to have at least two people on council who have not previously served.

I think it is also important that council include a diversity of skills, perspectives and backgrounds. Given the challenges facing our downtown and business community, it would be good to have someone knowledgeable of and representing their interests on council. This should be balanced by at least one councillor who primarily represents our residents. We should have at least one councillor, preferably more, with some experience and skills in financial management. Since one of our big concerns is a balanced demographic and attracting more families, it would also be good to have someone representing their interests. A diversity of male and female, young and old would also be good.

A very important thing is that council needs to be willing to listen and to give fair consideration to what they hear from the community. This doesn’t mean that council should always do what people want them to do, but council should be able and willing to explain why they make the decisions they do, particularly if there are a lot of people saying they should be making a different decision.

What are your thoughts?

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Support for Peter Wainwright in Past Elections

For somebody who has served as a Councillor the number of votes they get in subsequent elections is not about what they say they’re going to do but rather how the voters feel they’ve done in their time in office.

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Peter Wainwright was elected for the first time in 1993. Since then more than 50% of the voters have always supported him as a Councillor.

ElectionVotes% of VotesTurnout
2014204652.3%3911
2005Acclaimed
2002169363.4%2671
1999128956.0%2300
1996149652.2%2868
1993121653.5%2272

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The Gateway/Sidney Crossing Decision

This wasn’t an easy decision. There were good arguments both for and against the project. What made it particularly hard was the conflict between the interests of our industrial area and west Sidney residents versus the interests of our downtown business area and our other residents. It didn’t help that there was misinformation on both sides – a lot of misinformation. And, some people were very passionate about their views and expressed their opinions in a manner that others found inappropriate or even offensive. That certainly didn’t make it any easier. No matter which way the decision went, many people were going to be unhappy. Nobody should have been expecting the vote to be unanimous.

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It wasn’t a case of people not listening or ignoring the interests of others. People simply came to different conclusions. Some found the expected benefits to be greater than the risks. Some found the risks far outweighed the potential benefits. And, some felt we should be able to find a vision for this site with less controversy. None of these is wrong. People came to these conclusions honestly, but from different perspectives and values.

In the end, I was one of five who decided to vote in favour of the development.

We will never know which side is “right”. Sandown is also moving forward with a large Canadian Tire store and more, and we are not going to be able to separate the effects of the two projects. With or without Gateway, Sandown will significantly change Sidney’s future. We should now be focusing on how we move forward.

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How I Voted

This is a summary of how I voted on the various OCP and Zoning amendments that have come before Council this term (up to 11 June 2018). Also listed is my voting on some other significant decisions.

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DevelopmentDateMy Vote
9733 & 9741 Fifth Street10-Feb-15For
10230 Bowerbank Road10-Feb-15For
9667 First Street23-Mar-15Against
2531 Goddard Road23-Mar-15For
9429 Canora Road23-Nov-15For
10420 Allbay Road9-Feb-16For
9700 & 9708 Fourth Street9-Feb-16Against
2248 Ardwell Avenue & 10364 Resthaven Drive22-Feb-16Against
9818 & 9830 Fourth Street and 9819 Fifth Street14-Mar-16For
2475 & 2477 Mt. Baker Avenue11-Jul-16For
9565 Canora Road8-Aug-16For
9660 Eighth Street – CSB6-Sep-16For
10215 Resthaven Drive6-Sep-16For
9716 Third Street6-Sep-16Against
2125 Beacon Avenue West – Gateway12-Sep-16For
2447 Henry Ave27-Feb-17For
OCP & Zoning FAR / Bonus Density Bylaw27-Mar-17For
2211,2213 & 2215 James White Boulevard10-Jul-17For
2268 & 2270 Henry Ave14-Aug-17For
OCP to adopt West Side Local area Plan23-Oct-17For
2225 Malaview Ave.15-Jan-18Against
2348 Beacon Ave.26-Feb-18Against
2420, 2432 Beacon Ave. & 9812, 19816 Fourth St.26-Feb-18Against
2325 Harbour Rd.11-June-18Against
Other Significant Decisions
Decision not to seek consent of electorate for borrowing for Community Safety Building22-Aug-16Against
Construction of new skatepark11-Oct-16For
Decision not to create a downtown revitalization tax exemption31-Oct-17Against

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