They had planned for around $3 million, but the Town of Sidney now has a deal to sell its existing fire hall and an adjacent property for much more.
The municipality has announced a deal with a pair of developers to sell the properties for $9 million — possibly more, if the Town approves more floor space in a new building, which is allowed under current zoning in the downtown area.
The deal is between the Town and developers Fraser McColl and Dan Robbins, who bid to purchase the fire hall and the parking lot next door on Third Street. They plan on redeveloping the site into a mixed residential-commercial building. As part of the deal, 30 parking stalls will be retained. The site also has the potential to allow a mid-block building of up to six storeys.
Mayor Steve Price told the News Review that the purchase and sale agreement is not yet finalized, and is expected to come to council in mid-June for final approval. At the same time, the developers will be working with the municipality on their building proposal.
In a media release, the Town stated the redevelopment of the site will go through the usual planing and council approval process, including public notification. There is no official community plan or zoning amendments involved, they stated. McColl and Robbins have been behind developments in downtown Victoria, most recently a 62-unit condo tower on Fort Street.
Price said he expects that the developers will come to council with plans for a six storey project. Negotiations with McColl and Robbins, he continued, included preliminary project discussions. He noted that all of the plans will come before council and the public, like any other proposal.
“The Town received several excellent submissions and we thank everyone who took the time and effort to be a part of this process,” stated Price. “In the end, Council feels we have made a well-researched, balanced choice that will be positive for the community while providing the intended funds required to offset the cost of building the new Community Safety Building.”
Sidney had previously announced they planned to sell the properties in order to offset the cost of borrowing for constructing the new Community Safety Building — which went from an initial cost of $10 million to a current price tag of around $15 million this year. The new building — which will be the home of the fire department and BC Ambulance Service — is currently under construction south of the Mary Winspear Centre, next to the Pat Bay Highway.
The cost overruns have been caused by a hot construction and real estate market in the region, resulting in difficulty attracting a variety of bidders on many of the components of the project — and as a result, driving prices higher.
At the same time, the market has led to a higher selling price of the current fire hall and parking lot properties, meaning the Town can keep any borrowing they had planned for the Community Safety Building, lower. Town council approved borrowing of between $5 and $8 million prior to the start of construction. As costs went up, the estimated borrowing did as well.
Price said the low end of the borrowing — in the $5 million range — would be a tax equivalent of 2.43 per cent, or $2.88 a month increase on the average Sidney homeowner.
High-end borrowing was estimated to cost $4.62/month, or a tax jump equivalent of 3.67 per cent.
Price added the Town got a good deal on the site of the new Community Safety Building — $1 each year for 65 years, in a deal with the Victoria Airport Authority. He said it would have cost the Town $7.5 million over the same term if they’d reached an agreement with the society that runs the Mary Winspear Centre.