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Height of distribution centre on airport land scaled back

The second floor of a proposed $65-million distribution centre on Victoria International Airport land has been eliminated in a new design drawn up after neighbours complained about the size of the project.

The second floor of a proposed $65-million distribution centre on Victoria International Airport land has been eliminated in a new design drawn up after neighbours complained about the size of the project.

Instead of a two-storey warehouse with parking on the upper floor, the plan is now for a one-storey, 115,000-square-foot warehouse with an attached parkade.

The east side of the project would be reduced in height by half, to 36 feet (11 metres) tall, said Matt Woolsey, spokesman for York Realty, which is proposing to build the distribution centre and parkade for an unnamed client at 9899 McDonald Park Rd.

The change will decrease the building’s size by more than 25 per cent from the earlier plan, Woolsey said.

“It’s a tough decision for us to do. It is sort of decreasing the future functionality of the building for different user groups,” he said.

To proceed, York needs approval from the Victoria Airport Authority, manager of the airport and its federal land, and to sign a long-term lease. If the project goes ahead, construction is estimated to take 15 months.

The total square footage of the proposal, including the parkade, which would be stepped up in height, is still being finalized, Woolsey said.

Area residents complained about the initial version of the plan, saying it was too high and too massive. Many voiced concerns about traffic, fearing delivery trucks and individual van drivers would clog up an already busy area.

Woolsey said the project has been designed to avoid adding to rush-hour traffic. The warehouse would fill up and empty daily.

Van drivers in 150 vehicles would take items out between 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m., returning after 7:30 p.m., he said.

Between 10 and 14 “line-haul” trucks per day would reach the site via McDonald Park Road, arriving after 9 p.m. Unloading would take place within the building, which would reduce noise, according to a project update.

New artwork showing a lower profile on the warehouse reflects the massing, not the final look of the exterior. Woolsey suggested neighbours may have ideas about exterior cladding.

A solar system is anticipated to power 15 to 20 per cent of the building. The project was limited by B.C. Hydro rules governing how much solar is permitted, Woolsey said.

As far as traffic, the airport authority has committed to working with York Realty, Sidney, North Saanich and other stakeholders to plan for the design and construction of a roundabout at the intersection of Galaran Road at Beacon Avenue and for the eventual realignment of Stirling Way to connect into the roundabout, the update said.

The airport authority and York Realty are seeking feedback until the end of this month. To line up a video meeting or email, contact yorkproject@victoriaairport.com.

“There’s a lot of moving parts so we have to make sure we address some priority items so that we’re comfortable proceeding,” said Rod Hunchak, the airport’s director of business development.

Hunchak said the airport does not share information on lease length, but it does do long-term leases for land.

Geoff Irwin, a resident of Jahn Place in the Galaran area, is pleased with the height reduction for the warehouse. “[It’s] certainly a step in the right direction and I’m certainly appreciative of the Victoria Airport Authority’s and York Realty’s action on this.”

A lot of information is still missing, however, he said.

Irwin wants to see more details of the design, size and site coverage for the project, and clear commitments for how the building’s operator will monitor traffic in and out of the site, especially during extra-busy times.

Mike McGregor, who also lives on Jahn Place, is concerned vehicles from the distribution centre will affect local streets, and questions whether a roundabout will be able to manage traffic.

Both Irwin and McGregor would like to see the proponents do more to reach out to the neighbours, saying it would be possible to set up a safe way to connect personally with the community.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com