On April 4, Sidney residents can have their say about the Cameo proposal, which would contain a new Star Cinema and 45 dwelling units ranging from studios to three-bedroom units.
From 10:30-12:30 a.m. and 7-9 p.m., people can drop-in and speak to Star Cinema’s owner Sandy Oliver, general manager Lindsay Pomper and representatives from Casman Properties. Short presentations at 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. will be more in-depth.
In an interview, Oliver said she has heard some misinformation and concerns from patrons and she wanted to reassure people that Casman has gone “above and beyond” to include the theatre in their proposal.
“They’ve made it clear to us that a movie theatre remains in Sidney, and building a space that can accommodate a movie theatre has lots of cost to it.”
Adding a theatre space is more expensive than a typical bare commercial space (16-foot ceilings instead of 10, additional soundproofing, sloped floors, etc.). They have also agreed to keep the current rental agreement, which the developer estimates is 36 per cent below current market rates. This, according to Oliver, “will allow us, we hope, to continue to provide affordable cinema for another 20 years.”
One area of contention is the lack of parking spaces for theatre patrons. Oliver said that 20 years ago, she was walked through the process of getting a parking variance because of the positive presence a theatre would have on the town. The current 5,000 sq. ft theatre, which would typically require 29 spots (and a payment of $10,000 in lieu of each spot), thus has none, and no payment was given at the time.
The current proposal, which also asks to reduce parking by 29 spaces, would save Casman $290,000 in amenity fees to the Town and Pomper and Oliver see it as an extension of the existing situation.
The additional cost, according to Pomper, would “have severe implications about whether they could still include Star Cinema as part of their development plans.” Both Pomper and Oliver point out that other theatres in downtown Victoria (Capitol 6, Cineplex Odeon, the Vic Theatre) also do not have dedicated spots.
Because the theatre is expanding from 5,000 sq. ft. to 7,250 sq. ft, Sidney would typically require 11 more than the 29 spots allotted for the old 5,000 sq. ft. space. Casman has agreed to pay $110,000 to the Town for those spots.
Oliver said while they are optimistic, the outcome is uncertain, which is why they are looking for the public’s support.
Jocelyn Gifford, president of the Sidney Community Association, said the Association does not take positions on particular developments. Gifford believes the current town council is pro-development and feels the high-level documents that guide development like the Official Community Plan require updating (it has stayed the same for 10 years).
The current council has bumped the OCP review to the next council’s term, meaning the earliest it can be reviewed is 2019. The core of Sidney is continuing to densify, “often over strong objection of neighbours,” and Gifford said there is no overall plan or design guideline that preserves some defining characteristics of Sidney today. Gifford said to her knowledge, all Association members believe sites like the current Star Cinema site should be redeveloped — the question is, how.
In the minutes of a Jan. 15, 2018 Committee of the Whole meeting, Town of Sidney staff confirmed that the Town’s current OCP and Downtown Local Area Plan supports four to six storeys, mid-block from Beacon Avenue.
“My sense is that the clear majority of our members feel not nearly enough attention is being paid to what makes Sidney unique or developing in a context of a vision that’s supported by residents,” Gifford said.
Gifford, who was at Star Cinema on Friday to watch Meditation Park, said she supported the open house organized by Casman and the theatre, and says the group has been advocating for this kind of consultation for other projects.
“We really commend them for doing that,” said Gifford, who also liked that there would be two presentations — one in the day and one in the evening so retirees and working people could both weigh in.
Gifford said she’ll try to go to both, to see what the differences of opinion are between the two crowds.
In a recent submission to town council, Casman wrote that the additional cost of a theatre space versus a bare commercial space requires additional density to make business sense, and Gifford understands that logic.
“The choice is not [whether] to stay the same or develop,” said Gifford. “It’s how development decisions are made and who benefits.”
The Open House will be on April 4 from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. It will be a drop-in format, but there will be a short presentation at 11 and 7:30 which will be more in-depth.